A bizarre evil notion: 'spreading the wealth' Between the Lines By: David Lias
Plain Talk Itâ�?�?s hard to believe that in just a few days, the endless, 24-hour coverage of the presidential campaign will end. Tuesday it will all be over, and I guess weâ�?�?ll have to find something else to talk about ad nauseum â�?�? like the war, energy or the economy. What I think will be interesting, though, is how history treats the campaign between Obama and McCain, especially in the time period from the presidential conventions on to election day. You have to admit there is a unique quality to this race for the White House. Obama, young, admittedly on Capitol Hill for just a short time, appears to be gliding to victory Tuesday. McCain, the war hero, the experienced politician, the man you would expect to have some expertise when it comes to using sound judgement, appears to have made one gaffe after the other. He chose a running mate he hardly knew. Now that the country knows her, itâ�?�?s safe to say a majority donâ�?�?t want her to be a 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency. Follow that with his response to our severe economic crisis, and the nation is left scratching itâ�?�?s collective head. We realize Sen. McCain has plenty of support as Nov. 4 approaches. He likely will win here in South Dakota. But in the near future, as historians write about the McCain/Obama contest, weâ�?�?ll read about hockey moms, Saturday Night Live, and Joe the Plumber. I mean, you canâ�?�?t make this stuff up. Joe the Plumber (is he a cousin to Bob the Builder??) is perhaps the most bizarre twist to the campaign. McCain has tried to use this man as the foundation for his claim that Obama wants to â�?�?redistribute the wealth,â�? which makes him a socialist, a Marxist, a neo-Nazi, a Communist, oh and I almost forgot, a Muslim. What McCain (and all of his supporters, who applaud wildly at every mention of Joe the Plumber and Barack the Redistributor) have forgotten is that one of the reasons civilized people get together and decide to create a government â�?�? even one as free as the republic of the United States â�?�? is to distribute wealth. My e-mail in inundated daily with announcements from our members of Congress in Washington, DC. Hereâ�?�?s a sampling from just this week: â�?¢ Johnson announces $1.3 million in federal funding following extreme weather. â�?¢ Thune announces federal highway funding for South Dakota counties impacted by disasters. â�?¢ Herseth Sandlin announces $593,867 grant for technology and innovation in education. And thatâ�?�?s puny stuff, compared to the $700 billion taxpayer-paid bailout â�?�? a redistribution of our wealth â�?�? to Wall Street, recently approved by Congress. There are other things to consider before going headstrong with McCain and his evil, anti-redistribution claims. For years, South Dakota has received more federal funding back from Washington than it sends there. In 2004, South Dakota was among the top 10 states receiving the most in federal spending per dollar of federal taxes. We ranked ninth, receiving $1.59 for every dollar we paid in federal taxes. The most recent data, (and forgive me, I donâ�?�?t have the dollar figures) shows that the number one state on the redistribution gravy train is (ready for this?) Alaska. And weâ�?�?ve moved up a notch, to eighth place. Wealth is redistributed in so many ways that one can hardly fathom it all. We pay sugar subsidies. We pay ethanol subsidies. And naturally, with agricultural being our top industry, South Dakota gets its fair share of farm subsidies. According to the EWG Farm Bill Subsidy Database, South Dakota received $1.06 billion in commodity program payments for program years 2003-2005. During that same time period, farmers here in Clay County received $22.2 million in commodity program payments. Nationally, the USDA attributes 66 percent of crop subsidy benefits to 10 percent of the beneficiaries of those programs. Up to $26 billion will be provided over the next five years in direct crop subsidy payments under the farm bill passed by the House of Representatives in July and companion legislation approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee the last week in October. A legacy of the 1996 â�?�?freedom to farmâ�? contracts that were intended to wean farmers from decades of dependence on crop subsidies, direct payments were authorized under the 2002 farm bill. It was noted last year that if extended in a final reauthorization, direct payments would constitute by far the single largest spending category for farm subsidies between 2008 and 2012. This comes despite projections from the Congressional Budget Office and USDA of robust prices for subsidized crops over the next five years, driven by continuing strong export demand for major crops and the price-boosting effect of the ethanol boom on corn and other commodities. The manner in which wealth is redistributed in this country is infinite. McCain may argue that it makes us all socialists, but itâ�?�?s been standard operating procedure in this country for years.