Can you believe it? The federal government is still paying farmers to grow tobacco…while they are spending millions to convince people not to smoke.
Did you get that? With the huge deficits we are running, we are paying people to grow tobacco. Have we completely lost our minds?
In fact the Fed just announced a new $54 million, 12-week campaign using TV spots to encourage smokers to give up the habit. State and federal spending on anti-smoking efforts has topped $800 million in recent years.
So why does the latest farm bill…approved by the Senate…contain support for the tobacco farmers?
A little history: From 1995 through 2011, the federal government paid out $1.329 billion in subsidies for the tobacco industry. In 2011 alone, taxpayers shelled out $191,218,926 in tobacco subsidies to 58,350 recipients, according to figures provided by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
North Carolina receives the largest share of the subsidies — 39.7 percent of the total or $528 million from 1995 through 2011 — followed by Kentucky at 28.7 percent.
Tobacco subsidies are small compared to outlays for other agricultural products. Corn subsidies amounted to more than $81 billion from 1995 through 2011 — including $4.6 billion last year — while taxpayers picked up the tab for $34.3 billion in wheat subsidies, $32 billion in cotton subsidies, $26 billion in soybean subsidies, and billions more for other crops.
Two other facts cited by the Mercatus Center: 62 percent of farms in the United States did not collect subsidy payments from 1995 through 2011, and 10 percent of farms collected 75 percent of all subsidies. Most of that money went to huge agribusiness corporations who contribute millions to Congress in the legalized bribery called campaign contributions.
This is a clear example of what is wrong with our government these days. Special interest groups can get handouts from the federal government for almost anything…if they set up a lobbying group in Washington and give lots of money to politicians. This is the monster that the Citizens United decision validated. It’s stupid, wasteful, corrupt and a lot more adjectives that I could add. Worse yet, it diverts precious funds from needed programs that create productive jobs.
We need to solve this problem. The first thing we need to do is set some reasonable limits on campaign contributions. Until we do that, stupid things like this will continue to happen. But the Supreme Court is blocking a legislative remedy. It may require an amendment to the Constitution.
If that's what it takes, let's get cracking.