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.


We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

Keep Reading Show less

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

Keep Reading Show less
Good News

Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less

Facebook: kktv11news

A post on the Murdered by Words subreddit is going viral for the perfect way a poster shut down a knee-jerk "double-standard!" claim.

It began when a Redditor posted a 2015 Buzzfeed article story about a single dad who took cosmetology lessons to learn how to do his daughter's hair.

Most people would see the story as something positive. A dad goes out of his way to learn a skill that makes his daughter look fabulous.

Keep Reading Show less