For decades, American taxpayers have provided tens of billions of dollars in federal farm subsidies ($35 billion between 2003-2005) to some of the largest and wealthiest farm businesses in the nation. But thousands of people who benefited from the subsidy flow were shielded from public view behind layers of partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability corporations, cooperatives, and other business structures that obscured their personal subsidy claims. Not anymore.
A new online database, developed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) from millions of previously unpublished USDA subsidy records, provides nearly full disclosure of federal farm subsidy beneficiaries for the first time. The disclosures include individuals, sometimes numbering in the dozens, whose subsidy benefits pass through one or more plantation-scale farm businesses that produce vast quantities of subsidized cotton, rice and other crops. Many of those businesses receive millions in USDA crop subsidies each year, and according to the new USDA data, pass six-figure benefits through to many people. In many cases, these individuals have not previously had subsidy benefits attributed to them by name.
EWG finds that the top 1% of beneficiaries received 17% of the crop subsidy benefits between 2003 and 2005, and their average benefit was $377,484 per person for the 3 program years or over $125,000 apiece annually.
Read more about EWG here, and check out its updated searchable Farm Subsidy database that just became available today.
Read an AP story here about EWG and the new searchable farm subsidy database.
And who has harvested the most money from farm programs? Who’s The King? As revealed in the new data, the current answer to that question is one Maurice Wilder, resident of Florida. Mr. Wilder received a total of $3,217,158 in farm program payments from 2003-2005. Read about The King of Farm Cash here.
Reminds of an old joke – Q: How do you starve a farmer? A: Weld his mailbox shut.
I had a previous post on stamp prices and several posts on food prices here and here. When I came across this time series of movie ticket prices back to 1910, I was able to create the chart above (click to enlarge) that shows inflation-adjusted price indexes for movie tickets and gasoline over the last 50 years.
As the chart shows, the real price of a movie ticket today ($6.58) is 80% higher than in 1957 when the nominal price of a movie was 50 cents, but $3.65 in today’s dollars. In contrast, the average price of gasoline so far this year of $2.60 per gallon according to EIA data, is only about 15% above the real price in 1957, when gas sold for 31 cents per gallon ($2.26 in today’s dollars).
Bottom Line: Compared to buying a movie ticket, gasoline today is a real bargain. And yet you’ll find 83,200 Google hits for the term “gasoline price gouging” and only 2 for “movie ticket gouging.” And Congress has yet to introduce legislation to protect consumers from “unconscionable movie gouging,” like for gas.
Oh, and what about the price of popcorn once you enter the movie theater? If consumers ever needed legislation for protection against “unconscionable pricing,” movie theater popcorn would be a good place to start.
In a previous post, I wrote about the Marriot Hotel in Grand Rapids, MI that announced recently that it intended to reserve the entire 19th floor of the hotel for women only, and charge a $25-30 nightly premium.
According to this AP report, “Soon afterward, the hotel received a “tremendous response” from its customers and others, and the decision was made not to go forward with the gender-segregated floor, a Mariot spokesperson said.”
Probably a good idea since the Public Accommodation section of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation (any inn, hotel, motel that provides lodging to transient guests), without discrimination or segregation.”
According to this Economic Times of India article Want to save on expenses? Sell your car!, it costs 16.73 rupees per kilometer to operate a car in India, which works out to about 67 cents per mile (see graph above).
In contrast, it costs only 48.5 cents per mile to operate a vehicle in the U.S., according to the IRS. In a previous post, I reported that gasoline currently costs $5.16 per gallon in India, so it makes sense that driving in India is a lot more expensive than in the U.S., and also explains partly why the average person in India drives only about 6,000 miles (10,000 km) per year compared to the 12,000 mile average in the U.S.
The article also claims that it would actually be slightly cheaper to use taxis (60 cents per mile) than owning and operating a car.
(HT: Sanil Kori)
Google’s “Street View Van.”
Google Street View of 7th Ave. and West 43 St., NYC.
From today’s Slate, “Google Spy: Zooming in on neighbors, nose-pickers, and sunbathers with Google Street View,”
As Google grows older, it’s becoming that kid who brings an M-80 to the neighborhood barbecue. While everyone else is goofing off with sparklers, Google blows up a trash can and freaks out the entire block.
The latest explosion is Google Street View. The free-sushi-eating Googleheads dreamed up the idea to send a camera-equipped van (see picture above) to take 360-degree shots around the streets of San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Denver, and Miami. Cool, right? Then the service launched last Tuesday, and Mary Kalin-Casey discovered that she could see her cat Monty in the window of her apartment. If you zoom in, you can tell that Monty is a tabby.
Check out Manhattan here with Google Street View, starting in Times Square.
For the second month this year (May), Toyota outsold Ford Motor Co., which saw sales fall 6.9%, according to this report. But Ford sales worldwide might get a boost from the strong economic growth in India, and the fact that in developing markets, the premium segments of the car business grow the fastest.
From the article Volvo to Hit Indian Roads by Year End, “Ford-owned premium car brand Volvo is planning to drive into India the S80 (top picture above) and the SUV XC 90 by the end of this year (bottom picture above).”
MP: Maybe the booming economies of India and China will help save Ford and GM? As globalization and free markets unleash previously untapped entrepreneurship, talent and wealth in India and China, their middle and upper classes expand and prosper, and they enter the global marketplace and start to buy globally, including many products from the U.S. and from U.S. MNCs like Ford.
HT: Sanil Kori
NEW DELHI – “The Bharti-Wal-Mart retail partnership is looking at opening its first clutch of retail stores – around half a dozen – sometime early next year.
Bharti Enterprises group chairman and CEO Sunil Mittal today said: “We will start rolling out stores from next year and may put up several hundred stores over four to five years”.
Bharti has announced that it will invest $2.5 billion in its retail venture, under which it will lead and manage the front end operations, while Wal-Mart will power the logistics and backend operations. Around $100 million has already been committed by Bharti.”
Read more here.
Read a previous post here about Wal-Mart’s impressive overseas sales growth, despite staganating sales in the U.S.
Greg Mankiw has a post today “MBA vs. PhD” responding to a question about career options and earning potential with a Ph.D. in economics compared to an MBA degree.
There is a link to this report “The Market for New Ph.D. Economists in 2002,” which contains the data in the chart above (click to enlarge) for the percent of foreign students in economics doctoral programs in the U.S. Isn’t it interesting that 30 years ago, U.S. citizens made up 2/3 of the economics students in Ph.D. programs, and in 2000 international students made up almost 2/3 of the students!
Also interesting is the fact that the median time to get a Ph.D. in economics was 7 years in 2000, compared to 5.7 years in 1976.
Here are the stats on Harvard MBAs, including median starting salaries in 2006 ($105,000).
Early in Bush’s presidency, liberal critics said: The economy is not growing. Which was true. He inherited the debris of the 1990s’ irrational exuberances. A brief (8 months) and mild (the mildest since World War II) recession began in March 2001, before any of his policies were implemented. It ended in November 2001.
In 2002, when his tax cuts kicked in and the economy began 65 months — so far — of uninterrupted growth, critics said: But it is a “jobless recovery.” When the unemployment rate steadily declined — today it is 4.5%; time was, 6% was considered full employment — critics said: Well, all right, the economy is growing and creating jobs and wealth, but the wealth is not being distributed in accordance with the laws of God or Nature or liberalism or something.
In the 102 quarters since Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts went into effect more than 25 years ago, there have been 96 quarters of growth. Since the Bush tax cuts and the current expansion began, the economy’s growth has averaged 3 percent per quarter, and more than 8 million jobs have been created. The deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product is below the post-World War II average.
Democrats, economic hypochondriacs all, see economic sickness.
~George Will in today’s Washington Post
“History shows that tax hikes on the rich don’t raise much if any revenue. Turns out the rich got that way by being smart. They find ways to shelter money, but at great cost to the economy.”
Remember the simple rules:
1. If you tax something, you get less of it.
2. If you subsidize something, you get more of it.