Saturday, September 01, 2007

Harvesting Cash in Manhattan?

Looks like maybe a map of subway stations in Manhattan?

Well, the "sub" part is correct, but it's not a sub-way map of Manhattan, it's a farm sub-sidy map that I was able to generate from the Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database, showing Manhattanites receiving farm subsidies. Here's an interactive map of NYC that allows you to click on the red circles and find information about the individual recipients and where their farm is located.

According to National Review Online, "The red dots indicate people who live in Manhattan (and so clearly are neither hurting for money nor tilling the soil on the family farm) but receive agricultural subsidies from the federal government. The larger red blobs mark people receiving more than $250,000 in farm subsidies annually."

The farm bill passed by House Democrats in July would continue giving millionaires farm subsidies (setting the income threshold for payments at $1 million a year, and keeping loopholes in place that allow some making much more to qualify). The Bush administration has proposed sharply reducing the income threshold to $200,000 a year and ending many of those loopholes. That would reduce the number of subsidy recipients by fewer than 40,000 (of the current million or so recipients)—though I suppose it might put some rooftop gardens on Park Avenue out of commission.

MP: I'm speechless, I don't even know where to start my comments on this one. Help me out.


At 9/01/2007 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who own corporate farms have lobbyists like anyone else.

At 9/01/2007 1:31 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I don't think it's surprising, given that farming is not mostly a corporate venture nowadays, that many such business owners are located in Manhattan. Most of my relatives left the farm for that reason and migrated North to the factories. The days of the profitable small family farm are over.

Isn't putting a cap on income for a subsidy the same thing as a graduated income tax? Why discriminate against higher income people in either circumstance?. If subsides are not accomplishing the intended outcomes for a government program, eliminate them completely. Politics often trumps commonsense. Remember, though, everyone is a member of a special-interest group. Most of the complaints arise when someone’s group feels they are not getting their share of the “goodies.”

At 9/01/2007 5:43 PM, Anonymous bob wright said...

There is so much government waste. The notion that the Federal government needs more taxes is ludicrous. If they were doctors, you could sue them for malpractice. To bad we can't prosecute them for malfeasance.

What Congress needs is adult supervision.

At 9/01/2007 11:34 PM, Anonymous Sudha Shenoy said...

Pay them _not_ to farm -- just retire. Simultaneously, remove all tariffs/quotas on farm products. See what happens to food prices, quantities, quality. Esp. from Australia.

At 9/02/2007 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is absolutely disgusting.

Though I am surprised Bush wants to reduce and not increase the subsidy.

At 9/03/2007 9:01 AM, Blogger juandos said...

A @ 1:00 PM says: "That is absolutely disgusting"...

Hmmm, why is it any more disgusting than welfare entitlements or federal dollars wasted on what passes for public education , or is it?

At 9/03/2007 10:12 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Like I said before, and Juandos seconded, the government is in the income redistribution business and most complaints arise when the income is not distributed into the person's pocket who is making the complaint.

How many homeowners are upset that they get to write their mortgage interest and property tax off their income tax while renters receive no such deduction? How many parents are upset that they get an income tax exemption for their children while childless couples receive no such exemption? How are farm subsides substantially different than income tax deductions and exemptions? It’s always a matter of taking money from one taxpayer’s pocket and putting it into another taxpayer’s pocket; Isn’t it? I sense some hypocrisy or latent jealously at work here.

At 9/03/2007 10:29 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Here's the difference: To receive a mortgage deduction, you actually have to be alive and living in the house and have a mortgage. To receive a tax exemption for dependents, you actually have to be alive and have children, and the children have to be living. To receive farm subsidies, you USED to have to actually be alive and be involved in actual farming activities, i.e. living on a farm, engaged in farming as your main occupation. Now apparently, you: a) don't have to be a farmer, b) you don't have to be living on a farm, and c) you don't even have to be alive - another part of the farm subsidy scandal is that dead people have been receiving farm payments.

At 9/03/2007 11:11 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

OK. But, demographics change and it's not uncommon for programs to change with them. For example, Social Security raised the age for full retirement benefits because people are living longer (among other reasons). It’s unrealistic to expect farmers to live on farms nowadays.

I'm not trying to defend farm subsidies so much as to point out that the sense of one's entitlement depends on one's self-interest. When it’s finger pointing time, there’re usually four fingers pointing back at the pointer. Shouldn't we cap the number of income tax exemptions for tax purposes at 2 or 3 because that's the "average" family size?

At 9/03/2007 12:03 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Criticizing farm subsidies as wasteful and inefficient doesn't necessarily imply that one supports other subsidies or tax benefits that are also wasteful and inefficient.

I personally would support ending all subsidies and tax breaks for all industries and all taxpayers, and replacing the current income tax code with a flat-tax system.

Milton Friedman also supported a flat-tax, but said it would be politically unpopular and probably politically infeasible. Politicians gain power from dispensing tax breaks, subsidies and exemptions, etc. to special interest groups, and will resist moving towards a more sensible tax code.

At 9/03/2007 6:35 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"Politicians gain power from dispensing tax breaks, subsidies and exemptions, etc. to special interest groups, and will resist moving towards a more sensible tax code."

My point is that everyone belongs to a "special interest" group. It's never someone else, yet every mention of that term implies someone else is at fault for all the problems.

At 9/03/2007 7:56 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

"Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else." -- Frederic Bastiat

That pretty much sums up the dangers of special interest groups. Just because everybody belongs to some special interest doesn't then justify the government's use of coercion and force to satisfy that special interest group's infinite thirst for living at the expense of everybody else, i.e. living off other people's money.

At 9/04/2007 6:27 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I'm not saying that it's right, but money = power and power = clout. That's reality; it's impossible to unravel that relationship. If you are going to use a "rational man" model to understand the world, you have to take that as a given and start from there. To ignore that dynamic would be irrational.

Trying to remove special interest clout from government decisions is the same as trying to force social responsibility on corporations and would fail for the same reasons. Doesn’t economic theory tell us that people respond to incentives? Politicians want votes and C.E.Os want profit maximization regardless of how they obtain them. If you remove the money, you remove the incentive.


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