Robbing Nonpeter to Pay Nonpaul
Entry for 2017-06-17

Like most urban Americans born since World War I, I have devoted my entire adult life to understanding the farm program. It's hard, dirty, heartbreaking work, and my chief comfort lies in the conviction that millions of farmers are out there trying to comprehend labor legislation. All of us are racing the clock, because one of these days the government is going to let the labor surplus eat the farm surplus.

Heartening news on this front recently emerged from the Hands Across the Upper Ohio Valley Committee, an organization devoted to improved understanding and intermarriage between steelworkers and truck farmers. A farm member from somewhere north of Chillicothe, Ohio, sent me word that his chapter now understands all the labor laws.

The Wagner, Taft-Hartley, and Landrum-Griffith Acts, he explains, are instruments to keep unions from butting into the business of management, and vice versa. Thus labor and management can settle their differences in the only sensible way: by ignoring each other. When this doesn't work, he says, then there is unemployment compensation that pays the workers not to have jobs, and there are tax provisions that pay business not to manufacture anything. This way everybody makes money, no matter what, and industrial production is an economic stimulus even when it stops.

I returned this analysis to the Ohio chapter, in case it was their only copy, and in exchange I sent them this urbanite summary of the farm program:

The trouble started when food production began to exceed food consumption. We have to eat up all the produce to keep prices stable. But government leaders knew that any awp_postst to correct the imbalance by encouraging people to eat more would be opposed by the powerful AMA lobby as socialized obesity. So the only way to compensate for all the nonconsumption was to create an equal amount of nonproduction. It was simple. They decided to tax consumers for not consuming, then use the money to pay farmers for not farming. It's such a beautiful idea that we retain it, whether or not it works, for aesthetic reasons.

That's about all there is to report right now, except that the Hands Across the Upper Ohio Valley group is now drawing up its own subsidy plan: 20 percent of all farm subsidy and unemployment compensation would be set aside in a special Congressional Incentive Fund. This would be used to reimburse Congressmen for not passing laws.
(Saturday Review, 1971)