American food policy has long been rife with head-scratching illogic. We spend billions every year on farm subsidies, many of which help wealthy commercial operations to plant more crops than we need. The glut depresses world crop prices, harming farmers in developing countries. Meanwhile, millions of Americans live tenuously close to hunger, which is barely kept at bay by a food stamp program that gives most beneficiaries just a little more than $4 a day.
So it’s almost too absurd to believe that House Republicans are asking for a farm bill that would make all of these problems worse. For the putative purpose of balancing the country’s books, the measures that the House Republican caucus is pushing for in negotiations with the Senate, as Congress attempts to pass a long-stalled extension of the farm bill, would cut back the meager aid to our country’s most vulnerable and use the proceeds to continue fattening up a small number of wealthy American farmers.
A great op-ed by Joe Stiglitz in last Saturday’s New York Times. The whole thing is worth reading, as Stiglitz manages to distill the essence of the political economy of US agricultural and food policy in less than 1,500 words. And in that op-ed, I recognize the Joe Stiglitz that become one of my intellectual heroes when I started studying development microeconomics and realized that he had written seminal contributions on many topics of importance to development.
Actress Jenny McCarthy is well-known for opposing vaccines, because they “cause autism.” Never mind the fact that there is an overwhelming body of research that shows that vaccines do not cause autism, Jenny McCarthy just knows. Because Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity, she commands much more attention than her knowledge of medicine would normally command.
Likewise with Bette Midler, who has taken to pontificating about genetically modified organisms in the tweet above (and probably elsewhere; I didn’t want to look…)
Really, is it be too much to ask from celebrities that they stick to what they know?
(ht: David Rieff, via Twitter.)
My post on massive open online courses (MOOCs) generated a bit of commentary. Since I am busy with travel, a grant proposal, and a commissioned article on top of the usual research and committee work these days (I don’t teach in the fall), I thought I would summarize that commentary in lieu of a proper Monday post.
First came a post by Aine Seitz McCarthy, one of our PhD students whose blog also focuses on development. Aine (“pronounced like An-ya”) sees MOOCs as a threat to her future employment: Continue reading
Last Tuesday, my Cornell colleague, coauthor, and former advisor Chris Barrett was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart discussing food aid. The video segment in which he appeared managed to make a very serious point — the effectiveness of the Food for Peace program is greatly undermined by the shipping lobby — while remaining highly satirical, and you can watch it here:
According to an interview Chris gave to the Cornell Daily Sun, the taping of his part of the segment took about four hours.
For those of you who are not familiar with his work, Chris has worked on just about every aspect of food security, and I’d be hard pressed to pinpoint what he is most famous for. The above video, however, is about his work on food aid, the culmination of which has been his 2005 book with Dan Maxwell, Food Aid After Fifty Years.
For a more popular treatment of the weaknesses of US food aid because of the political economy landscape, I suggest reading Kilman and Thurow’s Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.