Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama Rips Farm Subsidy Abuse

Dead Farmers Scam: President-elect Barack Obama at his news conference Tuesday singled out farm subsidy abuses as one of many areas his budget advisers seek to eliminate.
He cited reports of corporations receiving millions of dollars in subsidies far over the cap of $250,000. If true, he said, the oversight by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be fixed.
Lots of luck. The farm lobby and a harvest of congressmen and senators from the agricultural-driven states have been swilling the taxpayers' troughs for years. Although the intent of the subsidy programs are admirable, sometimes necessary, they all too often are abused.
How about $1.1 billion in farm subsidies from 1999 to 2006 given to dead people?

Token Oversight: A Government Accounting Office report last year discovered 172,801 deceased individuals received subsidies, 19% of them dead for seven years or more. In some cases the money went to deceased agri-business corporate executives. In others, to estates which families no longer farm. Farm subsidy recipients are required to re-certify with the USDA annually. But only 39 of the 181 estates (a token fraction reviewed by the GOA ) were determined for eligibility by the Farm Services Agency. Forty percent of the 181 were granted as much as $500,000 in subsidies without re-certifying for up to seven years after the farmer was buried. The GAO report said $130 billion in farm subsidies were doled out between 1999 and 2005. Of that, $2.858 billion (11.17%) were improper payments. And, that's scratching only the top layer of this pork barrel As Obama's Illinois predecessor years ago, Sen. Majority Leader Everett Dirkson, famously ruminated: "A million here, a million there. It adds up." Today we are talking billions and Obama's short and long-term economic recovery programs in the trillions. At every turn, someone wants a piece of the pie. How much Obama carves out savings from wasteful programs is a challenge we hear with every new administration. There is little evidence the Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans serving the nation's food chain will not be at the front of the line. These are seasoned veterans of the pork barrel wars. They kick sand in the faces of Big Oil interests.

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