Friday, May 23, 2008

Why Washington is Broken

It's clear that Washington has no idea how to fix our energy policy. Their latest ideas have been to repeal the federal gas tax for the summer, beg the Saudis to increase production, and stop adding to our petroleum reserve. We are spending $600 billion each year to import oil, which is four times the amount of the war. To loosely quote Boone Pickens "it's the biggest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen." We are literally building economies in the Middle East, while at the same time talking about fighting them. Hmmm.

The farm bill that was just passed, vetoed, and overridden, is a classic example of Washington at its worst. Bush can finally veto bills like this because he doesn't have to please the electorate anymore. But congress does. There are a lot of elections this fall, and you'll never guess which group is one of the most influential when it comes to getting people elected. Yep, farmers. And this isn't the family farm we're talking about. It's millionaire farmers. I found a good opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal yesterday, and I'll give you some excerpts.

Since the last farm bill in 2002, the price of cotton is up 105%, soybeans 164%, corn 169% and wheat 256%. Yet when Mr. Bush proposed the genuine change of limiting farm welfare to those earning less than $200,000 a year, he was laughed out of town. The bill purports to limit subsidies to those earning a mere $750,000, but loopholes and spousal qualifications make it closer to $2.5 million. As Barack Obama likes to say, it's time Washington worked for "the middle class," which apparently includes millionaire corn and sugar farmers.

The USDA reports that if crop prices fall from these highs to their norm over the next five years, farm payments will surge. For example, if corn prices return to $3.25 a bushel from today's $6, farmers would get $10 billion a year in support payments. If bean prices fall to their norm, they'd get $4 billion. Thus, if farm prices stay high, consumers face higher grocery bills and farmers get rich. If farm prices fall, taxpayers kick in the difference and farmers still get rich.

You can read the full article here.

Among all the "problems" in Washington, this is number one to me. Both sides of the aisle worrying more about getting re-elected than doing what is right for America. And of course, McCain and Obama couldn't make it for these votes. But does anyone believe they would vote any different. Change? I doubt it.

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