Friday, May 16, 2008

Anti-Farm Subsidy coalition?

The NY Times editorial board gave harsh criticism of farm subsidies this morning:

Congress has approved a $307 billion farm bill that rewards rich farmers who do not need the help while doing virtually nothing to help the world’s hungry, who need all the help they can get.

President Bush should keep his promise to veto it and demand better legislation.

The bill is an inglorious piece of work tailored to the needs of big agriculture and championed by not only the usual bipartisan farm state legislators but also the Democratic leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Every five years we get a new farm bill, and each time we are reminded that even reformers like Ms. Pelosi cannot resist the blandishments and power of the farmers.

The bill includes the usual favors like the tax break for racehorse breeders pushed by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader. But the greater and more embarrassing defect is that the bill perpetuates the old subsidies for agriculture at a time when the prices that farmers are getting for big row crops like corn, soybeans and wheat have never been better. Net farm income is up 50 percent.

The legislation preserves an indefensible program of direct payments amounting to about $5 billion a year that flow in good times and bad. It raises support levels for wheat and soybeans, while adding several new crops to the list in a way that will make it easier for farmers to raid the federal Treasury even when prices go up.

The bill has some virtues. It increases spending for food stamps. It encourages farmers to preserve land that would otherwise be lost to suburban development and provides modest help to organic farmers. It trims (but not nearly enough) the unnecessary tax subsidy for corn ethanol. It provides $400 million to reduce polluted runoff into Chesapeake Bay.

But none of that justifies the legislation’s enormous defects. Indeed, even the increases in conservation spending are not nearly as generous as advertised. President Bush asked for $4 billion more than Congress provided. He also complained, rightly, that House and Senate conferees had killed a program to conserve rare prairie grasslands while narrowing two programs that paid farmers to protect wetlands and wildlife habitat.

With few Republicans rushing to the President’s side, the House and Senate both produced what amounted to veto-proof majorities, assuming they hold up. Mr. Bush should veto the bill anyway. Bad legislation is bad legislation.

--It's good to see criticism coming from the traditionally left wing NY Times. Most efforts (if you can call them that) to reduce farm subsidies have historically come from the GOP. Hopefully the food crises will help build a coalition big enough to make a difference, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Political effects of the Olympics

Many people have criticized the Olympic committee for allowing China to host despite its human rights record. This argument has merit. China's humans rights record is not good. However, I believe the relevant question to ask is what kind of effect the Olympics will have on China.

China's coverage of the earthquake rescue effort is being broadcast uncensored. The Olympics probably played into this decision, when you are on the world stage, there's a lot of pressure to act nice.

The Chinese government has reduced pollution around Beijing so that athletes know...breath.

However, the Olympic events are still boring, I don't care what anyone says.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Disagreeable economists

By now you've probably heard about the "gas-tax holiday" proposal in the US that's being trumpeted by Senators Clinton and McCain. Apparently last week the PBS Newhour tried to find a economist to argue in favour of this proposal. They couldn't find anyone.

How's that for disagreeable economists.

I also think that Dilbert is defiantly on to something here

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A bit shameless

The Campus paper at the University of Victoria did a feature about some good looking guy living on a boat in Victoria's inner harbour. Wonder who that could be?

Here's the link