Since 1995, GOP Congresspeople Have Received More Than $5 Million in Farm Subsidies

Democrats have received less than a tenth of that. But the debate over farm subsidies is complicated.

Farm subsidies are one of the most hotly debated issues in national food policy. Some critics, such as Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute, call for their complete elimination, others, such as journalists Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, advocate their radical reform, blaming them for exacerbating our national obesity crisis and encouraging unsustainable industrial agriculture. Still others, including prominent lawmakers, economists, and agribusiness leaders, defend their valuable role in maintaining national security and supporting family farms.

In fact, the only thing that's not up for debate in this whole morass is that the questions of agricultural subsidies is incredibly divisive—it's an issue that can crush the most sanguine observer's dreams of clarity and consensus.

Which is why this chart, showing which Members of the 112th Congress (or their spouses) have received direct, taxpayer-funded payments from the USDA between 1995 and 2009, is so interesting. Put together by the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy nonprofit, the data shows that 23 Members of Congress, or their family members, have received nearly $6 million dollars in federal farm support payments over the past 15 years. And, as you might expect, there is a sharp political divide among the recipients:

Among the members of the 112th Congress who collect payments from USDA are six Democrats and 17 Republicans. The disparity between the parties is even greater in terms of dollar amounts: $489,856 went to Democrats, but more than 10 times as much, $5,334,565, to Republicans.

Journalists have lost no time in attacking Tea Party Republican subsidy recipients, who campaigned on an anti-welfare platform of cutting federal spending, for their hypocrisy. For example, Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, Tennessee, and his family have received more than $3 million in "hand-outs" from the government. When ABC's Diane Sawyer asked him about the payments last night, Fincher refused to say whether or not he would continue to accept subsidies, instead responding:

We need a good, better, we need a better farm program and we need to streamline it. We need to look at many many options. And that's a long way off.

Coincidentally (or not), Fincher, Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Jim Costa (D-California), Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), Timothy Huelskamp (R-Kansas), Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), and Marlin Stutzman (R-Indiana) all received USDA payments, and are all on the House Committee on Agriculture, which recently sent a letter to Budget Chairman Paul Ryan suggesting that the government should cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income Americans purchase food, rather than automatic subsidies to farms.

Given that the current salary for members of the House and Senate starts at $174,000 per year, it's tempting to question whether these particular subsidy payments are a good investment of taxpayer money. Either way, I'd suggest that those of our elected representatives who are responsible for shaping federal policy in such a sensitive area might want to turn down this money to avoid a pretty clear conflict of interest.

Chart created by the Environmental Working Group, found via @bittman.

via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via ICE / Flickr

The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.

On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.

The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep Reading Show less
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less