Monday Roundup: A Confused Times Editorial

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We have another utterly confused accounting of federal payments spent in rural America, this time from the Los Angeles Times in an editorial

In the first paragraph, the editorial says the “recipients with the most to lose” in federal budget cutting live in  rural America. They “are almost twice as reliant on federal largesse as city dwellers and suburbanites.” The Times then links to a page at the Economic Research Service at the Department of Agriculture showing the metro versus nonmetro transfer payments. 

We’ve reprinted the chart here. No matter how you look at it, rural “recipients” are not twice as reliant on transfer payments (medical benefits, Social Security, etc.). But, okay, rural residents are older and poorer, so they receive more of these transfer payments. Fine. This is a good point, even if the specifics are all messed up.

But then the Times conflates transfer payments with ALL federal spending. To tell you the truth, we can’t understand what the paper is saying. The paper says that “six of the 10 states where the federal government spent the most per capita are rural and people living on farms and in small towns collected 20% more on average in federal benefits than city dwellers.” 

What the heck does that mean? What’s a “rural” state? (There are only five states in the country with a majority of residents living in rural counties after all.) Vermont is the most rural state in the country. Is Vermont on this list? We doubt it.

And are rural people getting twice what’s received in the cities or only 20% more? The Times editorial claims both.

The editorial then goes off on a long explanation of subsidies for rural air service, which amounts to $163 million a year — not enough money to alter any of these figures by an eyelash.

This is getting old.

The Washington Post and the New York Times have both incorrectly written that rural America receives more in federal spending than urban areas. Let’s get this straight, once and for all. When you add up ALL federal spending and divide it between rural and urban counties, urban counties receive more than rural counties. It’s not even close. It’s not even a question. The L.A. Times need only go to this page to get the scoop

The Times makes an important point, however. Rural America is more dependent on medical payments and Social Security than the cities. This is a big deal and we appreciate the Times pointing out this out — even in a way that was filled with misleading comparisons and conclusions.

• Why did Texas Gov. Rick Perry have such a hard time with “animal breeding” in college?

Perry went to Texas A&M University and took mostly ag courses. The Huffington Post got ahold of Perry’s college transcript and posted it here.  It’s not exactly inspiring, mostly Cs, with Ds in Meats, Feeds and Feeding and Veterinary Anatomy, among other courses. One of the reasons NOT to run for the presidency is that this sort of stuff is bound to come out. But for the grace of God…..

Meanwhile, R. G. Ratcliffe at the Austin (TX) American-Statesman reports on the crop subsidy payments Perry received for land he owned and farmed in the Texas Panhandle. See the story here. 

• The world’s largest untapped reserve of “rare earth” materials may be in Elk Creek, Nebraska. A Canadian firm just received results from a test drilling that found “significant” amounts of rare earth minerals and niobium. 

China has had a near monopoly on rare earth materials, which are vital to a number of high-tech industries.

•One of the most famous farm managers in America has died.

John William Sosby died Saturday. He was 73 and former manager of Claiborne Farm, one of the most prominent horse farms in thoroughbred racing. “Every great horse that came off of Claiborne Farm in the last 50 years, he had a hand on,” Claiborne president Seth Hancock said. 

• President Barack Obama will hold a rural economic forum in August, soon after the Ames straw poll in Iowa.

The event will be held in Peosta, Iowa, in a building on the campus of the Northwest Iowa Community College. The forum will include members of the Obama cabinet.

• Nothing beats a rivalry between two snobby, rich places. The Boston Globe reports on the nose-in-the-air battle between Martha’s Vinyard and Nantucket: 

“I like the Vineyard because I find it’s more diverse culturally and economically and socially,’’ said Lisbeth Cooper, who has been coming to Martha’s Vineyard each summer since the 1970s. “When I go to Nantucket, I just feel out of place,’’ she said as she paused from reading “Anna Karenina’’ on the beach in Oak Bluffs, where her son now owns an inn.

“Oak Bluffs is just revolting,’’ Richard Zahm said as he rode the ferry to his preferred island, Nantucket. “It’s like the Jersey Shore. The colors are garish.’’

 

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