Farm Bill 2013: Corporate Welfare on Steroids

If you're like most Americans, you probably think the primary purpose of the Farm Bill up for congressional authorization this year is to help farmers.

Of course, when it comes to the ways of Washington, nothing is ever that simple.

The 2013 edition of the Farm Bill, which is the main federal legislation for setting U.S. food policy, passed the Senate last week and now moves on to the House.

First crafted during the Great Depression to help struggling farmers, the Farm Bill is renewed and modified every five years. Congress was supposed to renew it last year, but instead merely extended it in deference to the 2012 election.

This year's Farm Bill calls for spending of $955 billion over 10 years and is 1,150 pages long.

And yes, some of that nearly $1 trillion does go to programs that help farmers. But not much of it.

Nearly 80% goes to fund the food stamp program, otherwise known by the more politically correct name of "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" (SNAP) it was given in 2008.

Yet what's most appalling about Farm Bill 2013 is how much it benefits dozens of large U.S. corporations, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON), Kraft Foods Group Inc. (Nasdaq: KRFT) and Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN).

Back in 2008, $173.5 million was spent on lobbying that year's farm bill, most of it by corporations eager to ensure that their subsidy gravy train wouldn't get derailed.

It was the second-most lobbying money ever spent on any U.S. legislation, falling short only of the $250 million spent on Dodd-Frank.

That kind of money buys top-of-the-line lobbying power.

"On the [2008] Farm Bill, special interests hired an army of well-connected lobbyists to press their case with Congress, including 45 former members of Congress, [and] at least 461 former congressional and executive branch staffers (including 86 that worked for former agriculture committee members or the U.S. Department of Agriculture)," noted a report on Farm Bill lobbying by Food & Water Watch.

It's little wonder that Farm Bills are chock full of corporate welfare.

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The Fed

Keith Fitz-Gerald: "Big Buying Opportunities" Created By This Week's Fed Meeting

All eyes are on this week's Fed meeting, set to be accompanied by a Bernanke news conference as well as updated economic projections for 2013-2015.

In the accompanying video, CNBC World asks Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald to weigh in on investment opportunities that may arise out of the Fed's actions.

Check it out for Keith's foretelling predictions on the "big buying opportunities" that you won't want to miss out on.

Keith also discusses how healthcare investments might be affected by the implementation of Obamacare.

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Hot Stocks

The Best Shipping Stocks to Buy Now as the Sector Delivers High Yield, Gains

With the market logging record gains since the start of the year, it's hard to find good stocks to buy now that are still a bargain. Harder still is finding cheap equities with attractive yields and big upside potential.

But Money Morning Global Investing Specialist Martin Hutchinson found a sector that's in a spectacular uptrend.

As he explained to our Money Morning readers in late May, "If you're in the right stocks, you're going to see big growth and solid dividends for years to come."

The sector hitting Hutchinson's radar now is shipping stocks.

The shipping industry has indeed taken it on the chin since reaching its record high in May 2008. But the sector is headed higher, a trajectory that brings with it some very attractive profit opportunities.

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The Fourth Branch of Government is Killing Our Competitiveness

The United States claims a position as a world leader in many fields. And in a few of those fields, it still is. We like to think of ourselves as leaders in business, the free market, the entrepreneurial spirit. But the country is falling further and further behind in key competitive areas, giving up a lot of ground in the past 10 to 13 years.

The numbers are not encouraging, and as a consequence no one pays much attention to them. Don't look to party politics, though. The decline has continued through Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses alike.

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Tech Investing

Stocks to Buy: Three Solid Tech Picks for Under $5 a Share

When considering stocks to buy, sometimes cheaper (and smaller) is better.

Popular tech behemoths like Google, Inc. (NYSE: GOOG) and Apple, Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) now trade for hundreds of dollars a share, making them impractical stocks to buy for small investors.

Most retail investors are better off taking a pass on those splashy household names and looking for stocks to buy that go for more modest prices – stocks that trade for less than five bucks a share.

Stocks trading for $5 or less often are considered riskier, but offer more upside than their bigger, pricier brethren.

That's because stocks of small companies are less liquid and more volatile relative to the rest of the market.  Typically, their prices tend to be move in bigger chunks, making for bigger gains (or losses).

Simply put, these stocks can provide more bang for your buck.

Here's what you need to know…

U.S. Economy

Is PIMCO's Bill Gross Wrong Again?

Stuart Varney put the question directly to me last week during his Fox Business show:

What do I make of comments from PIMCO's Bill Gross…that he's projecting a 60% chance of a global recession in the next three to five years?

Now, Bill Gross is obviously one of the most powerful men in the world. PIMCO, the firm he founded, is the world's biggest bond manager. He has assets under management of more than $2 trillion (that's right, with a "t").

So what exactly do I think about Mr. Gross's latest prediction?  Not much.

This is like predicting 10 of the last two recessions…eventually he'll get it right.

Technology Stocks

A Tech Investing Homerun

You don't always have to buy a stock to double your money.

Sometimes, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) can pack just as big a wallop.

ETFs with that kind of horsepower don't come along all that often, which is why you have to pick the right one … at the right time.

And that's the tech-investing home run that I have for you today – an ETF with actual double-your-money profit potential.

In fact, you'll be stunned at just how quickly every $1 you invest in this fund will turn into $2 in holdings.


Three Ways to Avoid the Intrusive Eye of the IRS

Earlier this week I wrote about the IRS's hidden tax business owners must pay for free speech.

In the wake of the IRS scandals we've learned American business owners are being persecuted for expressing opinions that differ from reigning political agendas.

Political donation activities, Facebook posts, and nonprofit mission statements are all fair game.

Today, when those in power don't like what you have to say, your business can be audited or refused tax-exempt status in painstakingly long and intrusive processes.

But the reverse is also true: When the powers-that-be approve, life is good – it's all rubber stamps and smooth sailing.

Sure, if we had our druthers, we'd without a doubt prefer to stand up for our ideals.

However, when your livelihood – and maybe the livelihoods of your family and your employees – depends on the success or failure of your business, it may not be worth the risk.

And that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Luckily, there are a few easy ways you can game the system to avoid IRS discrimination:

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Nearly Half of Americans Say Obamacare is a Bad Idea

Obamacare critics have maintained from day one the president's signature healthcare bill is disastrous and doomed to fail.

Now with just months until the bill takes full effect, more and more Americans are beginning to think the same thing.

According to recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, support for the Affordable Care Act is slipping.

The fresh poll shows 49% of Americans say President Barack Obama's health care reform bill is a bad idea. That's the highest percentage since the poll began measuring backing and opposition for the reform in 2009. Only 37% say the plan is a good idea.

The numbers reflect a sharp increase in disapproval since July 2012 following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's healthcare overhaul. At that time, 44% of survey respondents called it a bad idea vs. 40% who called it a good one.

The latest poll also revealed 38% of participants said they and their families will be in worse shape under the new health care law, the highest negative outlook percentage toward Obamacare since it was signed into law in 2010.

Now just 19% say they will be better off while 39% say the law won't make much difference.

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Your Money

8 Reasons Your Dollar Doesn't Go As Far As it Did 10 Years Ago

Patients' hospital expenses have nearly doubled in the past decade. So, too, has the price of college textbooks. And gas prices have more than doubled, while prices of fuel oil and other fuels for home use have climbed a whopping 145%.

It's been a tough decade on the wallet, thanks to inflation.

The figures are based on a Yahoo! Finance analysis of items and services tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index.

And the CPI, of course, is based on government stats which, as Money Morning has reported, routinely understate inflation.

Here are 8 reasons why inflation is pinching you, no matter what the Fed says about low inflation:

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