Farm Subsidies and Reverse Robin Hood

June 7, 2012

Liberals love to complain about Republican support for supposedly ”reverse Robin Hood” fiscal policies. Here’s Alan Blinder and Rachel Maddow, for example, pointing the finger at Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, respectively.

However, I don’t see much liberal concern about big government spending programs that really do redistribute income upwards. What do Blinder and Maddow think about Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who are eager to extend billions of dollars worth of unaffordable payments to farm businesses and landowners? Robert Samuelson recently described these corporate welfare recipients as ”immensely profitable” because of high crop prices.

Tad DeHaven and I looked at data on farm household incomes for testimony to the House last week. Here is what we found:

Farm subsidies redistribute wealth from taxpayers to often well-off farm businesses and landowners. Farm income stabilization payments have recently fluctuated between about $13 billion and $33 billion annually.  This is a welfare hand-out like food stamps, yet it goes to higher-income households. In 2010, the average income of farm households was $84,400, or 25 percent above the $67,530 average of all U.S. households. Moreover, the great bulk of farm subsidies go to the largest farms.

I’m not in favor of Robin Hood or reverse Robin Hood programs, but it would be nice to see more liberals focusing on spending programs that are unfair to the nation’s taxpayers.


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