24 January 2015

"We built this" - redux

During the last presidential campaign, a recurring theme was that of independence from government support, a claim made proudly to counteract Obama's perceived "socialist" tendencies. 

This past week, one of the rebuttals to Obama's State of the Union address was given by Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who proudly described how she wore plastic bread bags over her shoes as a mark of her family's humble roots and ability to live within their means.  What she conveniently left out was her family's acceptance of federal farm subsidies:
The truth about her family’s farm roots and living within one’s means, however, is more complex. Relatives of Ernst (née: Culver), based in Red Oak, Iowa (population: 5,568) have received over $460,000 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, was given $14,705 in conservation payments and $23,690 in commodity subsidies by the federal government–with all but twelve dollars allocated for corn support. Richard’s brother, Dallas Culver, benefited from $367,141 in federal agricultural aid, with over $250,000 geared toward corn subsidies.


  1. I can't help but wonder if she didn't hear a story about bread bags and get it goofed up. I am very familiar with bread bags worn over the socks and in the boots - back in the days when my footwear choices were waterproof rubber boots or warm not waterproof boots. Anybody else?
    Also, I don't think it is a sign of poverty for a growing child to have one pair of good shoes...

  2. Nothing new here, the usual Republican meme- we fought, struggled and worked for every single thing thing we ever got- unlike everyone else. Everyone else is on welfare, everyone else gets "entitlements," everyone else gets things handed to them. What's that? Subsidies incentives, loopholes, inversions? Why, we're job creators- we outsource, I mean... we create more jobs than anyone!

    So go fetch my burgers in the high paying job I made just for you- and if you're sick, stop complaining and make sure you don't cough all over my fries!

  3. Another way to look at this is how significant was the government support? (Which looks like "conservation support", or paying people not to plant in fields as sell as commodity subsidies)

    There are 4 family members, which got a total of $460,000 in 15 years. That's about $30,667 per year.

    This was all for corn crops it seems -- average size of corn farm in the US is 333 acres (and we'll assume they are average...) So that's on a total of 1332 acres per year. (Size from Wikipedia article on corn production in the US)

    Average yield for corn is 143 bushels per acre (average of past 3 years, from data in http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/blog/usda-projects-record-2014-crop-production).

    Price paid for the corn was about $4/ bushel (from http://www.farmandranchguide.com/news/crop/grain-prices-sharply-lower-following-usda-reports/article_1dfa5e2a-0c63-11e4-acf0-0019bb2963f4.html)

    So.. total revenue from corn in those 4 farms was $761,904 per year, against which they were paid $30,667 per year for conservation measures.

    That's about 4% per year for the magnitude of the government supports they had for their crop.

    So.. they maybe didn't do it all themselves, but they sure did most of it.. No one lives on an isolated island or in a bubble -- we're all part of society.

    1. Yeah, it's REALLY hard to live within one's means on $761,904 per year for a family of four.

    2. That's revenues, friend, not profit. You've got to pay for fuel, farm equipment, seed, fertilizer, property taxes, taxes, etc --and interest on the loan from the bank you got to buy all the fuel, seed, fertilizer etc to put in to grow the crop.

      Figure maybe 5% profit, which is maybe $38,100 per year -- before income taxes. And that's a good year. *If* the price of corn is up, you make money -- if its down you don't....

      http://www.agriview.com/news/crop/grain-farm-net-incomes-down-this-year-given-corn-beans/article_65e35712-f9fb-11e2-9bde-0019bb2963f4.html is data from 2013. That puts a 330 acre farm at about $40,000 net income with corn at $4.90 per bushel.

    3. So, 80% of their net income was government subsidy? That's significant government support.

  4. They weren't getting the subsidy when she was wearing bread bags on the bus or if she was they seemingly used the funds as intended ;-)

  5. If she was wearing bread bags she would remember that they were wore INSIDE the shoes - worn outside the bags wouldn't last walking to the school bus stop. Who had that many bread bags? My mom made our bread, store bought was for kids whose parents worked 'outside the home.'

    1. Here's a link from back in 2013 that confirms bread bags worn inside the boots to keep the feet dry, not to protect the shoes.


      But she might have worn them and not be remembering accurately. Lots of politicians seem to remember poorly.


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