Farm subsidies are widely seen as the "low hanging fruit" of federal spending cuts, but with the milk cliff looming, Congress last week passed an agriculture bill that left them all essentially intact. And that, in a nutshell, is "the essence of the deficit problem," writes Robert Samuelson, in a Washington Post column titled, "If we can't kill farm subsidies, what can we kill?" Here is $10 billion to $15 billion in annual spending that is antiquated and nearly impossible to justify, yet eliminating it is unthinkable.
The subsidies haven't saved small farms, nor are they necessary to keep afloat the wildly profitable large ones. And farming no longer can claim it has the market in terms of volatility: "Autos, steel, entertainment, newspapers" and more industries have all seen wild swings. "If the subsidies ended tomorrow, wheat would still be grown in Kansas," Samuelson writes. Yet Congress keeps them alive, playing a "shell game," replacing one maligned subsidy with another. "Politics fosters inertia. People feel entitled," Samuelson reasons. But "we no longer have the luxury—as we did for decades—of carrying marginal, ineffectual, or wasteful programs." Click for Samuelson's full column. (Read more Robert Samuelson stories.)