Thursday, January 30, 2014

THE TIMES EDITORI AL

Thursday morning I posted a Wednesday editorial from the often far Right Wall Street Journal.
On Thursday the left of center New York Times printed this editorial.

"The Farm Bill Could Have Been Worse
Few bills of real substance emerge from today’s polarized Congress, and those that do tend to be misshapen lumps. They have enough useful provisions to win approval from Democrats, but are weighed down by the dangerous and occasionally bizarre demands of the many branches of the Republican Party.

That’s certainly the case with the $956 billion farm bill that passed the House on Wednesday with bipartisan support. It seems headed for approval by the Senate and the White House in the next few days. It makes some of the most significant reforms to wasteful agriculture subsidies in many years, and it contains dozens of important provisions designed to increase employment in rural areas and save lives with farsighted crop research. It preserves some important environmental protections, while cutting others. And though its food-stamp provisions were saved from being much worse, they will still reduce benefits for too many poor people.

On balance, the bill is clearly worthy of support, particularly because it will prevent austerity fanatics in future Congresses from gutting food stamps for the next five years. It will save $16.6 billion over a decade, or $23 billion if you count existing budget cuts imposed in the last two years. But endorsing the bill also means acknowledging the low expectations for real progress in Washington.

The most important reform in the bill is the elimination of direct payments to farmers, which provided cash subsidies in good years and bad, whether crop prices were high or low. This program was one of the worst abuses in the federal budget, and negotiators in the House and Senate should be commended for overcoming intense lobbying to preserve it, thereby saving $19 billion over 10 years.
To protect farmers from disaster in bad years, the bill moves $7 billion of that savings into a beefed-up insurance subsidy program, which is a better way of reducing risk. But that program is still too generous to big farmers. As the Environmental Working Group argues, the subsidies should have been means-tested. Reducing the insurance program’s size might have paid for more food stamps.

Negotiators took an important step by linking crop insurance subsidies to requirements that farms meet environmental standards, including soil conservation and wetlands protection. But a few smaller conservation programs were eliminated, and the overall amount spent on conservation was cut by $4 billion.

The bill also pays for research to improve crop yields and reduce plant disease that could have an important effect in developing countries, along with energy-efficiency programs and new manufacturing opportunities in agriculture-related businesses.

The most painful cut in the bill is the $8 billion reduction in food stamps over a decade. The effect of this is limited to 4 percent of recipients, or 850,000 families, who would lose about $90 a month. Most of them live in the 16 states that have taken advantage of a loophole in a utility-assistance program, receiving benefits that Congress did not intend. That loophole should have been closed, but not in such a precipitous way for needy families.

Nonetheless, the bill’s authors rejected the far worse cuts in the original House bill, which would have tossed 3.8 million people from the program. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues, rejecting the farm bill means rolling the dice that the next Congress will do a better job. In today’s environment, that’s a tough bet."

I read both papers to get a consensus opinion on many of the issues instead of a biased one. Of course like all of us my own tainted views do influence my final interpretation, and I expect that to be the same with you.

No comments:

Post a Comment