Thanks to Jim Matheson for pointing out that when farm subsidies were
introduced in the 1930s, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace called
them "a temporary solution to deal with an emergency." That emergency, says Matheson,
was collapsing farm incomes affecting 25 percent of the population then
living on farms. Temporary can mean a long time in politics.
But far from being reducing the cost of subsidies the new bill expands them by $25 billion to $289 billion despite the fact that soaring prices for agriculture products are making farmers richer.
But hang on. If I am doing the math correctly that $289 billion is costing the US's 300 million citizens approaching $1,000 each. So if subsidies were abolished two things would happen. Developing countries, freed from unfair competition, would be able to grow crops they are good at - such as cotton and sugar - giving them the biggest economic boost in recent memory. Second, not only would this not cost the US (and, of course Europe and Japan) anything at all but they would get a cashback of $1,000 for every citizen. There is such a thing as a free lunch.