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Saturday, February 11, 2006

welfare kings

Last night's 20/20 was a re-run of an earlier John Stossel special called "Myths, Lies and Nasty Behaviour". The best part was No. 5, "Welfare for Farmers":
Some subsidies do go to family farms, like one run by Fred and Larry Starrh. But does that entitle them to $3.5 million of your money? That's what they've received over seven years.

I called them welfare queens — and they objected. "Change it to king," Larry Starrh joked, "Welfare kings. Because 'queens' is bad in California, believe me."
Stossel later says, "Subsidies are a like a heroin fix". What a great line! And he clearly lays out how one intervention prompts another. It was amazing to hear the farmers laugh and exclaim, "Well I totally disagree with you John, and the legislature is with us at this point, so we're winning, and you're losing"!

That was one of the best Stossel pieces in a long time and it reminded me of the classic Farm Fiasco, by James Bovard. Bovard meticulously lays out the disaster that Federal farm programs have been. My favorite bit from that book is the story of how the Feds decided to raise milk prices by buying a bunch of dairy cows and killing them, thereby flooding the beef market and ruining the businesses and lives of countless cattle ranchers. How could they not foresee the obvious consequences of their actions? How stupid could they possibly be?

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