Joseph Stiglitz Talks Our Crazy Food Policy

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


Joseph E. Stiglitz is not exactly a household name, but he is one of America’s great thinkers.

Professor Stiglitz teaches economics at Columbia University in New York City.

He is a Nobel laureate.

In 2011, Time named Stiglitz one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Stiglitz was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1993-95, during the Clinton administration, and served as CEA chairman from 1995-97.

This from his website:

Stiglitz helped create a new branch of economics, “The Economics of Information,” exploring the consequences of information asymmetries and pioneering such pivotal concepts as adverse selection and moral hazard, which have now become standard tools not only of theorists, but of policy analysts.

In 2013, Professor Joseph Stiglitz received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for his book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future.

By now I’m sure you get the picture, this is a very smart man–a man who has thought through many of our societal issues.

Hunger in this rich land is unnecessary.

So it was with great interest that I read his writing in the opinion pages of The New York Times.

His article entitled, The Insanity of Our Food Policy, is a scalding indictment of Washington working hand-in-hand with wealthy, powerful interests. What’s new, right? But this malevolent cooperation is resulting in more hungry people in this nation of almost unlimited wherewithal.

Here are some choice quotes from the article written by Professor Stiglitz:

“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.”

“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.”

“The House has proposed cutting food stamp benefits by $40 billion over 10 years–that’s on top of $5 billion in cuts that already came into effect this month with the expiration of increases to the food stamp program . . .”

“The bill actually distorts our economy by promoting the kind of production we don’t need and shrinking the consumption of those with the smallest incomes. There is no moral justification either: It actually increases misery and precariousness of daily life for millions of Americans.”

“Today, food stamps are one of the main support beams in our anti-poverty efforts . . . Even with that support, many of them experience food insecurity, that is, they had trouble putting food on the table at some point during the year.”

“Our country is the largest producer and exporter of corn and soybeans, to name just two of its biggest crops. And yet millions of Americans still suffer from hunger, and millions more would, were it not for the vital programs that government provides to prevent hunger and malnutrition–the programs that the Republicans are now seeking to cut back.”

“Hunger in this rich land is unnecessary.”

“By cutting back on food stamps, we are ensuring the perpetuation of inequality, and at that, one of its worst manifestations: the inequality of opportunity.”

“All of this exposes the Republicans’ argument in favor of these food policies–a concern for our future, particularly the impact of the national debt on our children–as a dishonest and deeply cynical pretense.”

“For these proposals to become law would be a moral and economic failure for the country.”

I would urge you to read the article and form your own opinions about what Professor Stiglitz is saying. It’s clear there is a giant divide in this country about how to proceed with re-upping the farm bill.

If there was ever a time to communicate your concerns to your elected officials about this serious issue, now might be the time.

What is your opinion of what Professor Stiglitz is saying about the political atmosphere surrounding the farm bill?

Photo credit: Craig McCord