LAKEWOOD, COLO.—On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a veiled threat against Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Perry's spokesman didn't disavow the statement, claiming that it was an expression of frustration with overspending in Washington.
Without that Washington spending, Rick Perry's home county would probably go under. Haskell County, Texas, got more that $232 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies from the federal government from 1996-2010, including more than $80,000 to Rick Perry himself. At just under 6,000 residents, that comes to more than $40,000 per person. The number one recipient in Haskell County has pulled in more than $2.4 million in taxpayer dollars. Perry got $9,600 in conservation payments, which meant taxpayers were giving him money to do nothing—to let his land lie fallow. [See political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]
Texas is the number one recipient of taxpayer-funded farm subsidies in the country, with more than $24.4 billion in subsidies in that same period. But despite the billions of dollars spent, most Texas farmers don't benefit from the federal largesse. 81 percent of Texas farmers don't get subsidies, and of those that do, 78 percent of the money goes to the top 10 percent of recipients.
Perry has flip-flopped not just on Washington spending, but on the issue of farm subsidies itself. According to the Austin American Statesman,
While campaigning for passage of the 1995 farm bill, Perry urged the nation to move away from direct subsidies for farmers. He said they should be given incentives, such as reduced capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes.
"In the 1995 farm bill, we must carefully but thoughtfully move our farmers and ranchers away from a subsidized system to a market-driven system," Perry said in a speech delivered in Iowa. "We must move away from government assistance to opportunity enhancement."
There is, by the way, plenty of hypocrisy to go around with Perry's fellow Tea Partyer, Rep. Michele Bachman. She voted against the 2008 farm bill because of the "outrageous pork," but meanwhile her father-in-law accepted $260,000 in subsidies for the family dairy farm. [See photos of Michele Bachmann.]
The taxpayer funding to Rick Perry's home county will undoubtedly increase because Texas is in the grip of an epic drought, which means Washington will once again intercede with taxpayer-funded crop insurance payments to agribusinesses in Haskell County. Add to that more than a quarter of the county residents are over 65 and eligible for Social Security and Medicare, and it's evident that Washington is pretty consequential in the lives of people in Haskell County.
So what would happen if Washington took Perry at his word and stopped sending federal agribusiness subsidies to Texas? And does that "printing money" extend to printing millions of dollars sent to Haskell County, Texas?