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GOP Hypocrisy and the Farm Bill

July 12, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Whenever Republicans attempt to cut spending for some social welfare program or another, Democrats are quick to claim that it is not unaffordable spending that the Republicans dislike, but poor people. By passing the farm bill this week — after stripping out spending for the food stamp program — House Republicans showed that that stereotype is largely true.

Make no mistake, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is out of control, and should be cut. Since 2000, spending on SNAP increased from just $17 billion per year to more than $78 billion in 2012, while the number of recipients rose from 17 million in 2000 to more than 48 million today. Nearly one out of every six Americans receives SNAP.

In passing the farm bill, Republicans demonstrated that they are just fine with bloated welfare programs as long as those welfare payments go to well-healed special interests.”

In the previous iteration of the farm bill, Republicans had attempted to cut SNAP spending by $20.5 billion over 10 years, paring the program back to 2010 levels of spending. Democrats opposed those cuts, while some Republicans didn’t believe the cuts were deep enough. As a result, the farm bill went down to well-deserved defeat.

In response the Republican leadership split the bill into two pieces, allowing Republicans to vote for agricultural subsidies without having to vote for any funding for food stamps at all. With the Republican leadership whipping the vote, including threatening wayward committee chairmen, the welfare-for-farmers-only version passed 216-208, entirely on the strength of Republican votes. In fact, only 12 Republicans voted against it.

But in passing the farm bill, Republicans demonstrated that they are just fine with bloated welfare programs as long as those welfare payments go to well-healed special interests.

In 2011, the last year for which full data is available, the average farm household had an income of $87,289, 25 percent higher than the average for all U.S. households. And about a third of the farm subsidies go to the largest four percent of farm operators. If you want to see real “welfare queens,” look no further than Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyler Farms, and Riceland Foods.

This version of the farm bill would cost taxpayers more than $195 billion over the next 10 years. And while some Republicans have tried to portray this as a cut, which is only according to the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Washington Times Op-Ed: The coup that isn’t as Obama disregards his duty to cut off Egyptian aid

July 12, 2013 in Politics & Elections

Egypt has undergone a coup, deposed its leader and the military has installed a new president. The situation is unpredictable, unstable and volatile. The country remains in a state of unrest.
What do we do? We send them F-16s.
U.S. law states that we can’t send military and other types of aid to any country whose duly elected head of state is deposed by a coup. US law clearly says that we cannot send such aid where the military plays a decisive role in the coup.
This law allows no presidential waiver. Aid cannot be reconsidered or restored until a democratically elected government is elected.
And yet, as this president has so often done with other laws and even the Constitution-he ignores it.
The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge that the military takeover in Egypt is a coup. When asked directly to spell out the State Department’s definition of a coup, spokesperson Jen Psaki refused, saying only that, ‘I’m happy to get you that, but I wouldn’t ascribe, you know, specific words. Each scenario is different. And if you need our specific, formal, government definition, we’ll get that around to everybody.’
The State Department has yet to send a response.
We once had a President who parsed the meaning of the word ‘is.’ Now we have a President who denies a coup has taken place in Egypt when by any conventional definition, it most certainly has. The President of Egypt was placed under house arrest. The military took over the television stations. The military took over control of local police and all forms of local and national government.
Still, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN, ‘If this were to be seen as a coup, then it would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces.’
Thursday morning, it was reported that this relationship included delivering four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the next few weeks in addition to the eight we sent in January. Another eight are scheduled to ship later this year.
And to what end?
In January 2011, some of the jets we gave to President Mubarak were used to intimidate protesters-the same people whose protests helped to overthrow Mubarak and replace him with Mohammed Morsi. Not surprisingly, In February 2012, Gallup reported that 71 percent of Egyptians opposed US foreign aid to their country.
When both Mubarak and Morsi were …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Transatlantic Regulatory Trade Barriers

July 12, 2013 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

This week, trade negotiators from the U.S. and EU are meeting in Washington to begin discussions on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Even before negotiations have begun, issues such as protection for French films from well-financed Hollywood competition have generated significant controversy. Will Iron Man,Superman and Spiderman be able to break open the French market? There is little doubt that liberalizing trade between two of the world’s economic superpowers, with all of their various interest groups, presents some challenges.

Beyond the traditional free trade versus protectionism debate, however, there is a larger issue. These talks are not just about free trade as it is traditionally understood, with lower tariffs and constraints on other forms of protectionism. They are also about domestic regulations that have an impact on trade.

All countries regulate, but they do not always regulate in the same way.”

Some large figures have been thrown around as potential benefits of addressing the problem. One study suggests that a 50 percent reduction in “non-tariff barriers,” such as “unnecessary and discriminatory regulations, rules and standards in specific product sectors,” could boost GDP by $161 billion in Europe and $53 billion in the United States. Actual gains from eliminating arbitrary regulatory divergences are likely to be much smaller than this, but could nonetheless be significant.

What exactly are these regulatory trade barriers? There is some uncertainty as to the scope of the issue, but one aspect is clear: Regulations differ considerably across countries. All countries regulate, but they do not always regulate in the same way. Regardless of your view of the merits of specific regulations, having divergent regulations around the world is clearly inefficient and leads to higher costs in a number of different ways.

For example, pharmaceutical companies may need to go through the approval and testing process multiple times, once for each market where they wish to sell. This is costly, and is reflected in the price paid by consumers.

In addition, in some instances, different regulations lead to products being made differently for individual markets. Multiple production lines are needed to accommodate the various products, which reduces economies of scale.

You might think that the different regulations exist in response to national policy preferences, and that is the case on occasion. For example, European reluctance to allow the sale of genetically modified foods is based in part on the strongly held feelings of its citizens (putting aside …read more

Source: OP-EDS