Today’s awkwardly titled editorial from the Wisconsin State Journal — “Farm checks to city folk highlight excess” — is unusual. We’ll say why in a minute. The editorial hammers a farm subsidy program which (we guess) pays land owners either to plant or not plant crops on their farmland. After reading the editorial we’re left with no worthwhile understanding of why the program was created, whether it’s helping farmers or the environment or doing what it was intended to do.,, or not.
We do get that the State Journal believes it’s wasteful. And that it costs $5 billion a year.
$5 billion is nothing to sneeze at. Five billion could buy us two more hugely expensive B2 Stealth Bombers with change left over to train the pilots. Or build 300 new schools or whatever.
But what was unusual today? Answer: a hyperlink within the online editorial which leads to an Interactive Map showing the location of every individual in Madison, Monona, and Fitchburg who gets a payment from this program. Why? What purpose does it serve to know — by name and address — who gets payments from this program? Are we supposed to shun these neighbors at the grocery store? Drive by their houses and yell? This map is disgraceful. The State Journal should take it down, and apologize.
What’s more, the entire “argument” of this editorial is silly. “Farm” subsidies shouldn’t go to someone who isn’t a “farmer”? It’s childish. People are getting these payments because they are land owners, not because they wear bib overalls. Is the program inefficient, ineffective, counterproductive? Those, if true, would be adult arguments. That’s not what the State Journal has given us.
We’re classifying this as a Type 5 Wisconsin State Journal editorial.
Back on August 8th we described the Type 5 as follows:
5. The Unintentionally Hilarious (or Just Plain Sad). The Type 5 editorial adopts a ludicrous, counterfactual or illogical line of argument which then has the actual, unintended effect of showing that the editorial writers — had they gone to law school — would have become very, very bad lawyers. Sometimes, there is no argument per se, just unconnected thoughts, sputtering or slogans. These last tend to be worrying, but the next day they’re always back to their old selves again.
We don’t find today’s editorial particularly “hilarious” or “sad”. We do find it very poorly argued. So close enough — it’s a 5. And the map is disgraceful.