Department of Agriculture

Show Me the Money

Why you keep picking the more expensive cell phone plan—and how behavioral economics can help.

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 Is it even worth taking on a Fox News discussion about whether too many kids are being fed through summer lunch programs?

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The upcoming Fourth of July weekend is prime barbecue time for just about everybody, but a new public service announcement (PSA) campaign from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) hopes to remind would-be grillmasters that food safety is paramount, even when you’re trying to simultaneously kick back a beer and show off the fireworks you bought across the state line. The PSAs advise Americans to Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Why prioritize this message? Because, the USDA says, there are about 76 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S.

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Now that Republicans in the House have beat back health care reform (or, at least, passed a repeal bill that's destined to wilt in the Senate), it’s on to the next order of business—hacking away at government spending. Plenty of them can't wait. As Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake said on Thursday, “Some of us have been anxious to start cutting for awhile.” No doubt. But the eagerness of some conservatives to cut the budget as quickly and deeply is already creating headaches for the GOP leadership. For starters, Republicans already differ over just how much of the budget to slash this year.

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The next time you hear a conservative ranting about big government, ask him how he likes his eggs--plain or with a side of salmonella. As you’ve probably heard by now, a massive egg recall is underway. A midwest producer shipped tainted eggs to supermarkets across the country, causing more than 1,300 known infections--with more, possibly, to come. The company ran the kind of factory farming operation that, experts have long warned, made salmonella infection more likely. Its owner had previously paid millions in fines for violating labor and safety regulations.

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Claim Denied

For a few hours last week, Eric Holder could breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, it wasn’t the attorney general but another African American government official whom right-wingers were smearing with allegations of reverse racism. But Andrew Breitbart and other conservative troublemakers’ efforts to turn Shirley Sherrod into Angela Davis proved so ludicrously unfair that they only wound up enhancing Sherrod’s reputation; even long-time conservative commentator Peggy Noonan is now holding up the once-obscure Department of Agriculture official as an icon of racial reconciliation.

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This week’s Big Story on race reminds me of Married With Children. Really. Not because of the NAACP’s role in the firing of the Agriculture Department’s Shirley Sherrod. Obviously, in the wake of their well-advised and masterfully civil demand that the Tea Partiers disavow racism officially, to them a video of a speech made to their own members by someone appearing to condone reverse racism was poison. Which would have made sense if that’s what the video showed. But it didn’t, especially when viewed in toto (but actually only barely even in the clip).

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The Economic Development Administration is in.  So is the Agriculture Department.  Now, the U.S.

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Earlier today I had an item about the irony of an agriculture subsidy recipient complaining to the Wall Street Journal that health care reform could transfer money from people like her to people who "just want freebies." A reader directed me to the Environmental Workings Group's database of farm subsidies, where I could discover just how much that farmer (Kitty Rehberg) collects from the federal government. Answer: a lot.

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced the creation of a “National Export Initiative,” as part of an ambitious goal of doubling exports in five years. (The real value of exports typically double every 13 years, and a five-year doubling hasn’t happened since the years immediately following World War II, an anomalous period to be sure).

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