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Brandon: When lambasting subsidies, take a look at all

Well, it’s version 7,342 of the same tired old story, the column by Jonah Goldberg of Tribune Media Services that’s been getting op-ed space in metropolitan newspapers.

Entitled “Heartland Grows Welfare Kings,” it’s based on an article in the Washington Post by Dan Morgan, Gilbert M. Gaul, and Sarah Cohen, “Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don’t Farm.”

Both are rehashes of ongoing stories and editorials in the metropolitan press about rich farmers being subsidized by the government and non-farmers getting government program payments: Houston surgeon gets $500,000 for doing nothing; Ex-TV mogul Ted Turner gets subsidy checks; Third World farmers are being trampled by greedy U.S. farmers dumping their products on the market; The environment is being savaged by growers using too much fertilizer and too many pesticides; The noble, altruistic Environmental Working Group is exposing the sham of farm programs; etc., etc. — all stories that editors seem to delight in using to fill space to pander to an urban populace that hasn’t a clue where its food and fiber comes from.

The Washington Post story quotes Gary Mitchell, a Kansas farmer who was once a top aide to then Rep. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.: “The farm policy we’re pursuing now has no rhyme or reason, and we’re just sending big checks to big farmers. They’re living off their welfare checks.”

Goldberg’s column says: “Americans are spending billions to prop up the last of the horse-and-buggy industries. America spends billions of dollars subsidizing a system that makes almost everyone in the world worse off.” Farmers, he says, “have no more right to live off the government teat than the corner bakery I loved as a child, but that couldn’t keep up with the times.”

Well hey, when it comes to subsidies, agriculture ain’t exactly up on a pedestal by itself.

For decades, newspapers (including the Washington Post) and magazines were granted and have continually lobbied to maintain favorable postal rates, mailing copies at a fraction of the actual cost to the Postal Service. A subsidy.

The Post, the New York Times, and other media conglomerates own hundreds of radio and TV stations around the country, all utilizing the public’s broadcast frequencies. These exclusive licenses, granted for all practical purposes in perpetuity, are worth many billions of dollars, and the owners spend millions lobbying to be sure they get to keep those franchises. Now they’re using those frequencies to sell fee-based services, while continuing to reap all the benefits from their rights to the “free” spectrum. Yet another subsidy for which you and I pay.

We could also talk about the government’s decades-long subsidies to the oil industry, including the massive costs of defending that industry and special tax breaks, which continue even though oil companies are raking in record profits every quarter.

We could talk about how the Environmental Working Group uses its tax-free foundation status (a subsidy), with the bulk of its support from other tax-free foundations (all subsidies), to engage in political activities, supposedly a no-no.

The examples go on and on.

So, when casting stones, some of the tossers would do well to be a bit less holier-than-thou.

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