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.”