Presiding over spilled milk

The United States has applied its central planning acumen to the dairy industry for many decades. It has worked as you might expect.

Not only does America have milk – it’s got a surplus of over 8 million metric tons, forcing dairy farms to shutter and farmers to simply start dumping millions of gallons of milk that far exceeds domestic and foreign demand

The State of Wisconsin has seen a net loss of more than 400 dairy farms this year alone, and in December last year, the state’s farmers dumped a record 160 million pounds of skim milk they couldn’t sell. That’s three times the amount they were forced to dump in 2012, according to CSMonitor.

By July, farmers in the Northeast had dumped 145 million pounds of milk, and 23.6 million pounds of that was dumped in July alone, according to Bloomberg.

Predictably, we have a bureaucrat to step in for comic relief:

“Dairy farmers are free-market guys – they don’t want to be told how much to produce,” Richard A. Ball, commissioner of New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, told Bloomberg.

Ahem. The free market is what would be telling dairy framers how much to produce; if there was one. Since there isn’t, maybe they do have to be told. Which, to be fair, is what they asked for.

With just the right combination of lobbyists, legislators, and bureaucrats I’m sure we could convert this glut into a shortage, or maybe a bigger glut, in short order. At least we could ensure a glut of lobbyists and bureaucrats as a source of campaign contributions to legislators.

As to signs of dairy farmers being “free market guys,” I don’t think lobbying for protective tariffs, USDA price regulation, demanding trade war, or rent-seeking after subsidies actually qualify.

U.S. dairy imports are restricted through quotas, tariffs and licensing requirements. Prices are regulated through a complex system managed by the USDA, which sets minimum prices. When prices fall below regulated minimums, farmers can apply for federal assistance.

US dairy farmers didn’t manage to get into this situation all on their own, they have had a lot of government “help.” They did, however, ask for it – including their share of $20 billion a year in subsidies from the farm bill, a hodge-podge of other price support programs, and the building of America’s strategic cheese reserve.

The wind in Maine blows mainly into Spain

Job creation, EPA style.

PORTLAND, Maine — The corporate subsidy watchdog agency Good Jobs First found Central Maine Power Co. parent company Iberdrola topped the list of all recipients of federal grants and tax credits, primarily in tax credits for its renewable energy developments.

Energy companies generally topped the list of grants, as the review by Good Jobs First included tax credits wind power companies can receive for each unit of electricity they produce…

John Carroll, spokesman for Iberdrola U.S.A., said that the $2.2 billion in federal grants and tax credits came to the company primarily through the massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Iberdrola is a Spanish company. TWT here.

Warren Buffett, of course, is also aware of this windfall

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” he said. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

To a capitalist, then, they don’t make sense. Period.

Paying Tribute to Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and Alec Baldwin

Governor Snyder suggested in his budget plan that film subsidies should be eliminated. Nevertheless, he left $25 million on the table and gave the movie industry a reason to complain about uncertainty.

Here’s why he should simply have been a “semi-tough guy of near average intelligence,” and cut it completely:

Movie math
Why can’t states grasp the absurdity of giving welfare to film and TV producers?
By Michael Kinsley
March 1, 2011

Film subsidy fans ignore critical facts
Movie industry tax breaks don’t pay for themselves, they’re a drain on the state
March 04. 2011 1:00AM
Frank Beckmann

Firefighters or Mitch Albom’s Movie Subsidy?
By Kathy Hoekstra
Feb. 28, 2011

State Film Subsidies: Not Much Bang For Too Many Bucks
By Robert Tannenwald
December 9, 2010

Ernst & Young, however, says good things are happening in New York:
Study Says Film Subsidies Create Jobs, in New York
By MICHAEL CIEPLY
January 27, 2009

And Ernst & Young claims that for every $1 spent on film subsidies in Michigan the state gains $6: 
New study says film incentives bring millions of dollars to Michigan
February 21, 2011
By Jackie Headapohl

If Ernst is correct, it is hard to see why Michigan shouldn’t spend $250 million on film subsidies.

Unfortunately, the Senate Fiscal Agency has another view. They tell us that we realize ten cents in tax revenue for every Michigan taxpayer dollar spent:
FILM INCENTIVES IN MICHIGAN

A Connecticut study reaches similar conclusions:
Fiddling While Rome Burns: Connecticut’s Multi-Million Dollar, Money-Losing Subsidy to the Entertainment Industry

So, there is good reason to eliminate, not reduce, the film subsidies. We should stop competing with other states to shove money into the pockets of the film industry. They’ve survived quite well on their own ever since the invention of talkies.

However, with Ernst & Young studies showing a 6 to 1 benefit (BS though that logically is) the Michael Moore Corporate Welfare Fund can’t fail to get the Governor’s approval for more than the $25 million he’s toying with.

After all, he pushed to raise the “Pure Michigan” tourism permanent bail-in fund from $15.4 million to $25.4 million. In that case a study by Longwoods International (paid for by Travel Michigan, the tourism promotion agency within the Michigan Economic Development Corporation) purported to show a mere $2.23 was gained for every tax dollar spent. Pure Spending — GOP Finds More for Tourism Subsidies
By Ken Braun
March 4, 2011

Naive hubris

Greg Main, the retiring head of the MEDC looks back on his accomplishments. This is his second term (his first stint was in the 1980s) as Michigan’s chief economic planner, and it appears he has learned little from the experiences.

“When I came back (in 2009), it was apparent that there was a good plan in place (at the MEDC) already,” Main said. “It is just a matter of executing it.”

…”It became real clear to me that it was one thing to create plans, and another thing to get them implemented,” Main said.

Well, yes, it is. Unfortunately, the plan executed during his second term is not what rational people would describe as “good.” So it is just as well it was not easy to do. In any case, no government has ever successfully executed an activist economic plan, so Main is not to be faulted for that failure. Only for the attempt, and continuing faith in it. (Note: the LSJ seems to have disappeared this next part in the online version. It was there this morning, online and in print.)

The strategies are paying off, Main said. Since he came to the MEDC, the state has captured six new manufacturing plants for advanced battery technologies.

“We are going to be the epicenter of that industry, and it didn’t even exist in the U.S. two years ago,” Main said.

Manufacturers of products needed by the solar and wind energy industries also have invested in Michigan.

Other campaigns and incentives – such as a tax credit for filmmakers who hire state residents and film in Michigan, and the state’s Pure Michigan travel ads – have elevated the state’s profile.

Windmill manufacture, battery plants that will be obsolete before they are fully operational, solar panel subsidies for India, and movie subsides(!)? Since he didn’t mention it, I guess ethanol was before his time.

This all makes me even more nervous about Rick Snyder, first head of MEDC, and his “public/private partnership” “plans.” If the “plan” requires public funding because private capital sees it as too risky, then it probably is too risky. Maybe a good test would be whether Union pension plans would provide the venture capital – with a no bailout clause.

This fascination with mini-Manhattan Projects needs to cease.