Farm Bill Debacle Update: Denver Post and Sen. Salazar Don’t Understand Adjusted Gross Income

May 17, 2008

Tax Prof Blog writes of the ignorance of the Denver Post and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar regarding the fact that adjusted gross income for a business is income LESS expenses.

Denver Post: Plowing Into the Farm Bill, by Anne C. Mulkern:

Sen. Ken Salazar, a Denver Democrat who supports the bill, disputed the idea that it pays rich farmers. The bill allows payments to farmers with adjusted gross incomes of $750,000 or less.

That number doesn’t take into account deductions for the cost of running a farm, Salazar said. “A farmer with an adjusted gross income of $750,000 might be losing his shirt” after paying for fuel, a new tractor and other expenses, Salazar said.

As Wash Park Prophet notes:

The trouble is that Ken Salazar is wrong. Adjusted gross income is income after business expenses (and student loan interest and self-employed health insurance deductions), not before. Indeed, even gross income for tax purposes is after business expenses.

The amount of crop subsidies received are based upon gross cash crop sales, but the limitation on farm subsidies to prevent rich corporate farmers from unduly benefitting from them, are based upon adjusted gross income (see Section 1601 of the Farm Bill), which, for a farmer with no other form of income, is simply taxable profits from farming. The notion that our government needs to be spending $43 billion a year, more or less, subsidizing farmers making $750,000 a year net is absurd.

The farm bill is obviously ridiculous public policy. It’s amazing that principled conservatives (the ones who truly seek to shrink the size of government) and principled liberals (the ones who claim to care about the truly poor in America) couldn’t get together and take the welfare to rich farmers and split that money in half. Half stays in the farm bill to increase food stamps for the poor. The other half is used to cut taxes across the board (or pay down the deficit).

For some reason, both parties seek to cater to farmers. During the estate tax debate, Republicans will constantly cite “family farms” that may have to pay it, as if they are any more worthy of friendlier tax policy than some rich person who died after earning money from some other industry. Given the amount of welfare those family farms have likely received over the years, if anything, the estate tax should be repealed for everyone EXCEPT family farmers. That, or their estate tax bill should be just to repay to the government the amount of welfare received throughout their lives.

Personally, I’ll never forget the day in which I saw a homeless man in D.C. mocking these policies, wearing a shirt that said “Farmers do it with subsidies.”

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