Obama targets Farm Bill subsidy abuses

Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama went after subsidies to wealthy farmers as “a prime example” of the abusive federal spending he hopes to rein in from his perch in the White House. He forgot to mention that, as a senator, he endorsed the bill in May, even as critics pointed out that the eligibility rules allow millionaires to be subsidized with taxpayer dollars.

Though Obama didn’t vote for it because he was on the campaign trail — and he maintained that the bill was “far from perfect” — he issued a statement expressing his support and accusing opponents of “saying no to America’s farmers and ranchers.”

Under the bill, individuals earning up to $750,000 in farm income and $500,000 in non-farm income are eligible for federal “help.” That means that a farming couple could make as much as $2.5 million in a year and still receive taxpayer subsidies.

One distinction to be made: Obama’s criticism of the program — as reported by the Government Accountability Office this week — stems from abuses under the bill, not the bill itself. That is, the GAO found that folks earning higher than the income threshold were still receiving payments. It’s an easy thing to criticize. The question is, how far would a President Obama go to change that income threshold altogether?

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Mike Lillis

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