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OK folks, here’s your chance to offer up some ideas. Suppose that we were to take the $20 billion that is currently used for direct farm subsidies each year and allocate it to some other domestic spending item. We’re not small government folks here, at least not for the next few minutes. What would you propose spending it on and why?

Suppose that an acre of reasonably good farmland in the middle of the country costs $4,000 (this is generous I think sans houses and water, and not so generous if we include houses and water). With $20 billion per year, the government could purchase 5 million acres of land each year. In some forested areas land could be had for much less, while in other areas it could be had for more, but take 5 million as a ballpark figure.

How much land is that? It’s about a plot of land 88 miles by 88 miles on each side (a little less than 8,000 square miles). After 10 years of such purchases, a parcel that is 280 miles by 280 miles on each side could be accumulated. This is a land area almost 23 times larger than Yellowstone Park. In fact, the entire amount of land under management by the National Park Service is roughly 80 million acres, or not much larger than the 10 years of purchases would be able to accumulate.

Or how about this to chew on: the National Park Service annual budget is less than $3 billion per year. So, whatever your view of the National Park System and the Department of Interior might be, consider that we spend each year, nearly seven times more on farm subsidies than we do to fund the National Park System.

I’m not trying to argue that this is a good way to spend $20 billion, or that we should ever want to spend it at all. I am just interested in hearing some ideas from you about how $20 billion might better be spent, even if on something ludicrous. After all, nothing is more ludicrous than farm subsidies, and since we’re spending other people’s money, let’s just have fun with it! Yay, now I am beginning to know what it feels like to be an elected “official.”

10 Responses to “What Could $20 Billion in Farm Subsidies Buy Us?”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    “No Farms Means No Food!”

    Love those bumper stickers.

  2. Harry says:

    Ha ha, Speedmaster.

    They already tried government-run farming in the Soviet Union, and, darn it, they had seventy consecutive years of bad weather.

    Eliminate the Department of Agriculture, not just farm subsidies. Farmers would be better off.

    Now it hardly matters what one does with a mere $20 billion a year. How about a hundred million for free Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles superboxes for former farmers, plus free Sabers tickets, food, and parking for Speedmaster (and Bills tickets, et cetera.

  3. RIT_Rich says:

    The best thing to do with 20 billion of government money, is to burn it. The benefits are numerous.

  4. Harry says:

    Here is another great idea: buy $20 billion of ten-year treasurys at a yield of 1.5 percent, in a private transaction — QE 2.1.

    Rich is right, by the way, only a more efficient way to extinguish dollars is to sell treasurys, not buy ’em. Even $20 billion is not enough ammo to get the treasury out of this predicament.

    Back during the Reagan recovery, Phil Gramm posed a challenge about tax rates: keep lowering them until revenue falls.

    Another idea is to give $20 billion to GM to tool up for a luxury model of the Volt, with electric windows and heated and cooled seats, etc., just like a Cadillac, and invest in a technology that makes the battery smaller, so you can get a set of clubs in the trunk.

    This is doable.

  5. JB says:

    Donate it to the AHI West! Or run a nation wide bingo game where the winners get 1 million dollars and we’ll have 20,000 more millionaires at the end of the game.

  6. Re: Speedmaster in 1 – In The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs pointed out that cities preceded agriculture. Farms depend on cities, not the other way around. Cities can feed themselves, but tractors are not produced on farms.

    Agree with RIT_Rich in 3: Destroy the $20 billion. Don’t spend it. Eliminate it. Rinse; repeat.

  7. Harry says:

    Let me remind readers that this is $20 billion a year, which, if capitalized represents serious money, regardless of what discount rate you use. Maybe enough to buy all of the Bahamas or the whole Peloponeysian Peninsula, plus Cyprus.

    I like jb’s idea about giving a few crumbs to AHI West. How many crumbs would it take to give Speedmaster the Sabers franchise?

  8. Rod says:

    Buy Alberta, Canada, or as much of it as $20 billion would buy. Sell Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Long Island to French Canada.

    Agricultural subsidies are like welfare: farmers depend on them like heroin addicts. Abolish the USDA and let the states do things like meat inspection. Preventing the importation of foreign plants and animals should be done by the Customs Service.

  9. […] Another Compelling Reason to Shut Down the Department of Housing and Urban Development What Could $20 Billion in Farm Subsidies Buy Us? In Afghanistan Until 2024 First They Came for the Kid-Run Lemonade Stands Wendy’s – […]

  10. Chris says:

    Ignoring shrinking the size of government, how about NASA? I think we’d get some really cool stuff and more than a couple fantastic fireworks displays if we tripled their budget.

    “The Universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space — each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.” -Carl Sagan

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