Monday, September 26, 2005

Tough choices

Streamlining maneuver may result in fewer Farm Service offices in state |
Thousands of farmers across Kansas rely on their local Farm Service Agency office to obtain loans and other payments from federal programs — but maybe not for long.

The federal agency is considering a plan to streamline operations nationwide, and more than a quarter of its 103 county offices in Kansas could soon be closed.

And that has raised concerns among the state’s farmers, who say it could complicate their business.

“To lose that service would be a handicap,” said James Congrove, a rancher and president of the Douglas County Farm Bureau.
Maybe this is a good thing, maybe it's bad. I really don't understand the depths of the bureaucracy revolving around farms, farm subsidies, loans, etc. I try, but it's plenty arcane.

That said, closing these offices will undoubtedly inconvenience farmers, forcing them to spend time driving further away rather than, as they say, farming.

You could cut local agencies like this to the bone, and you would never put together the $200 billion that Iraq has already cost us and that has been estimated as the cost of Katrina reconstruction.

Consider PorkBusters, an idea cooked up by a couple of conservative bloggers. On paper, an excellent plan: identify pork in the federal budget to suggest as offsets against the cost of rebuilding No Man's Land.

On paper (or pixels), it just looks foolish. Despite careful efforts and incredibly broad definitions of pork (the entry for the 3rd district of Kansas seems to include any earmarked funds, including funds to improve schools and to care for veterans), they've only managed to find $33 billion.

Don't get me wrong, that's a shit-load of money. And Bridges to Nowhere ought to be cut. But nickel and diming local schools and local Farm Service bureaus simply won't get you money to fund the reconstruction of Iraq or No Man's Land, let alone both.

Know what would? Freeze taxes where they are. Raise the capital gains tax a little and tax dividends (encourage people to work, you know). Don't be shy about taxing enormous gifts and estates. Make a plan to reduce our national debt.

That last one is important, because the cost of servicing that debt rises and rises, and constitutes a "Debt Tax" that leaves a drain on our ability to effectively respond to situations like the No Man's Land reconstruction. Paying more in taxes now in order to reduce that debt will actually save us money in the long run, and would free up money to spend on better preparation for disasters, or for health care, or education, or any of the many things the government can do to help people, day to day.

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