Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MN-02 : Should the Ryan Budget Save the Kline Family Farm ?

John Kline (R-MN-02) issued a press release in advance of his vote in favor of the Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) FY 2012 budget :
“ … hundreds of Minnesotans shared with me their thoughts about better ways to encourage job creation and foster long-term economic growth. The overwhelming majority of constituents told me they have no choice but to make the difficult decisions to guide their families and small businesses through difficult economic times, and they expect Washington to do the same.
This week Congress will vote on a responsible, restrained budget that will help America’s job creators put our nation back to work and secure America’s future by stopping Washington from spending money it doesn’t have. Our budget will cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade compared to the President’s budget, and $5.8 trillion relative to the current baseline. It also preserves benefits for today’s seniors while strengthening the safety net for our children and grandchildren.”

Already many have focused on the cuts that the Kline / Ryan budget will impact on Medicare and other entitlement programs … yet there has been little discussion about the 33% reduction in outlays for Education (Section 500 of the budget) from FY 2012 to FY 2013 … which would be one that Mr. Kline should be most interested as the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Heck, Mr. Kline as Chairman of Education Committee is promoting cuts to Head Start (FY 2012 Budget (GOP Budget) that would have a national impact
• 218,000 low-income children and families would be removed from Head Start.
• 16,000 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms would close.
• 55,000 teachers and related staff would lose their jobs.
• 170,000 families trying to find jobs or stay employed would lose childcare)
In Minnesota, every county would be affected … as Minnesota’s 35 federally designated Head Start grantees served 16,018 families in 2010.
And Head Start has a proven track record exhibited by :
192% Increase in Language Development
362% Increase in Emerging Literacy
288% Increase in Social Emotional Development
173% Increase in Physical Health and Wellbeing

But this commentary, is not about Education funding or any of the other proposed cuts … but instead what Mr. Ryan and Mr. Kline have protected --- Farm Subsidies.

American taxpayers paid roughly $15 billion in total farm subsidies last year, according to government data including $5 billion in direct payments to farmers accounts. With the farm sector booming—the USDA estimates net farm income this year will be the second-highest in 35 years—direct payments should become an easy target. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart noted that the payments go to farmers regardless of crop price or quality. Most of the payments go to the largest farmers in America given the amount of land they own. From 2002, when the program was expanded, through 2010, the top 10% of recipients received 67% of the funds, according to David DeGennaro, an Environmental Working Group legislative analyst. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said the direct subsidies have become indefensible because they don't go to farmers who need them to survive tough times.
Prominent Republicans like Senator Susan Collins (ME) view America’s fiscal problem and offer a solution… “I support the elimination of the ethanol subsidy — that’s worth some $6 billion a year.” Senator Collins added “I think we should cap farm subsidies for wealthy corporate farmers.”
Senator Collins was joined by Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-VT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Corker (R-TN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), Jim Webb (D-VA), Bob Bennet (R-UT), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Mike Enzi (R-ID), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in signing a letter to end the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit.

Targeting farm subsidies is not new … The CATO Institute lists 10 reasons while The Heritage Foundation complains that it subsidies millionaires. Heck, the New York Times editorialized that cutting farm subsidies was an easy one.

In summary, there are a significant number of elected Republican and Democrat leaders, think tanks and newspapers that all embrace the concept of terminating farm subsidies.

Yet, Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI-01) blueprint for the fiscal 2012 budget contained a paltry $3 billion per year over the next decade— leaving $120 billion in total expected spending on farm subsidies. Compare that to the outlay for Education which will be cut $23 billion in just FY2013 alone.

So, why would Mr. Kline and Mr. Ryan not raise the ante … that’s a great question … the answer is unknown … but what is known is that Mr. Kline’s Family Farm participates in accepting federal subsidies.

Yes, Mr. Kline the taxpayers expect you to make “the difficult decisions” in these “difficult economic times” but when one group is enjoying a banner year, we don’t expect you to continue to participate in receiving federal subsidies … we expect you to stop reckless Washington spending that benefits to a numerically small but highly motivated group who will fight ferociously to safeguard their benefits ... or as they are also known - your family, friends and supporters.

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