Our Food Policy is Insane
Posted at 11:04 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2013
With the farm bill shaping up to be one of the next major policy battles, Joseph Stiglitz argues that American food policy “has long been rife with head-scratching illogic … So it’s almost too absurd to believe that House Republicans are asking for a farm bill that would make all of these problems worse.”
According to Stiglitz, the current House proposal to cut food stamp benefits by $40 billion over 10 years (in addition to the already $5 billion in cuts from the expiration of the food stamp program) while allowing $14.9 billion in farm subsidies to continue, is economically and morally reprehensible.
Explains Stiglitz: “The proposal is a perfect example of how growing inequality has been fed by what economists call rent-seeking. As small numbers of Americans have grown extremely wealthy, their political power has also ballooned to a disproportionate size. Small, powerful interests — in this case, wealthy commercial farmers — help create market-skewing public policies that benefit only themselves, appropriating a larger slice of the nation’s economic pie. Their larger slice means everyone else gets a smaller one — the pie doesn’t get any bigger — though the rent-seekers are usually adept at taking little enough from individual Americans that they are hardly aware of the loss. While the money that they’ve picked from each individual American’s pocket is small, the aggregate is huge for the rent-seeker. And this in turn deepens inequality.”