Daily Archives: August 13, 2012

A farmer irrigates his Indiana cornfield in July 2012, amid one of the worst droughts in five decades (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The farm bill, which sets US agricultural subsidies for five years at a time and is up for renewal this year, isn’t normally a party-line issue. Lawmakers from rural areas and particularly senators from agrarian states unite across party lines to fleece the taxpayer. Urban congressmen are bought off with food stamps for their poorer voters – now given the ironically unsnappy name of Snap, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – which actually makes up more than three-quarters of total spending under the bill.

It might be a sordid trade-off, but it generally produces consensus. Not so this year: while a bipartisan bill easily passed the House of Representatives agriculture committee (dominated by rural types), Republican leader John Boehner dared not put it to a vote of the full House, or even pass a one-year extension of the current programmes. Read more

Let the games begin. Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as running mate kicks off a new stage in the US election campaign. It also gives politicians and columnists of all colours something big to chew on, namely, Ryan’s radical plan to shrink the postwar US welfare state – a budget Romney had endorsed even before the appointment. Will swing voters buy into the ideology of small government, or take fright at the spectre of ‘social Darwinism’? And what would America look like if the Ryan plan was put into place? Read more

Our selection of interesting articles from around the world today: