Trump's farmer bailout is already more than twice as expensive as Obama's automaker bailout

Trump talks to farmers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many Republicans were highly critical of former President Barack Obama's decision to bail out U.S. automakers after taking office at the peak of the Great Recession. Mitt Romney, now a U.S. senator, even wrote an op-ed urging Obama to let Detroit go bankrupt. President Trump has his own bailout, sending extra federal subsidies to farmers hurt by his trade war with China. The $28 billion and counting isn't fully offsetting the loss of Chinese purchases and markets for U.S. soybeans, pork, and other agricultural products, but it is still relatively generous, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes:

China hawks in Trump's administration want Beijing to quit subsidizing strategic industries, yet that hasn't deterred the White House from doling out billions in aid to American farmers, who have become more dependent on government money than they've been in years. At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit's Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion. And farmers expect the money to keep flowing. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Agriculture was actually one of the few sectors of the American economy that consistently ran a surplus with China, and Trump's tariffs are mostly supposed to be for the long-term benefit of the tech and manufacturing sectors. Farmers say they're upset about the handouts, but so far "there's been no break in Trump's support in rural areas, where his poll numbers are consistently about 12 percentage points higher than they are nationally," Bloomberg notes. And Trump is pretty open about wanting to keep it that way.

"I sometimes see where these horrible dishonest reporters will say that 'Oh jeez, the farmers are upset.' Well, they can't be too upset, because I gave them $12 billion and I gave them $16 billion this year," Trump said in a phone-in to Illinois farmers in late August, adding, "I hope you like me even better than you did in '16."

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