Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Farm Bill

“Democrats are committed to ending years of irresponsible budget policies that have produced historic deficits. Instead of compiling trillions of dollars of debt onto our children and grandchildren, we will restore pay-as-you-go budget discipline."

--Speaker Nancy Pelosi, December 12, 2006

When the Democrats gained the majority in congress after the fall ’06 elections, there was a notable, if not highly vociferous, cheer by their liberal supporters. To them and their then newly-minted political champions, the country had smartly started to repudiate the destructive political acrimony of George W. Bush and his neo-con cabal - a demoralizing, wasteful, and degenerate band of wily thieves absconding with everything America stood for. The new house Democrats with the left’s stamp of approval would come to the country’s rescue: They would resuscitate the flailing moral body that is America at odds with itself and also bring back some semblance of fiscal responsibility, fairness, and equanimity to politics.

Months ago when Senate Democrats and House Democrats gave up on their false promise of ”pay-as-you-go” it wasn’t as if it was much of a surprise that they would abandon a plan that was far from feasible but that they actually had the audacity to claim that they could deliver on that promise in the first place. Puzzling still was that there were people that actually believed that they would come through with their promise!

And so here we are at April 2008 with a looming juggernaut of a farm bill that is larger than the one proposed by President Bush back in 2002 (that totaled to 260 billion dollars). It seems that the farm lobby will get the lavish subsidies it wants while a limp Democratic majority led by Nancy Pelosi will do very little to curb it’s appetite for taxpayer dollars. Attempts by a few intrepid congressmen to trim the fat off the farm bill have fallen flat on its face due to the amount of leverage the farm lobby has been able to exert:

“The agribusiness industry plowed more than $80 million into lobbying last year, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsible Politics, which tracks spending on lobbying. Much of that was focused on the farm bill.” (WSJ, 5/27/08, Farm lobby beats back assault)

Despite the fact that farm incomes have hit record highs over the last several years, farmers are about to get paid and it’s going to be sweet for them. “Farmers” like oil-baron billionaire David Rockefeller who will happily receive a fat subsidy from taxpayers.

Recently, in an act of political grandstanding, congress paraded oil executives in a circus of pretend chastising. But where are the executives of the large agri-business that have made record profits over the last several years due to high commodity prices? And why isn’t someone calling to end corporate welfare for farmers as they do for Big Oil?

This is surely one of those cases where the interests of the American taxpayer have been quietly subverted aside just as economist Bryan Caplan correctly characterized in his recent book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: “While the voters sleep, special interests fine-tune their lobbying strategy. Just as voters know little because it doesn’t pay, interest groups know a lot because-for them-it does.” While Democrats should not be altogether faulted for their inability to stop the largesse that powerful lobby’s curry - Republicans are equally as complicit – they’re lame attempt to paint themselves as fiscally responsible is a powerful reminder of how politicians will try their hardest to appear as if they have their constituent’s interests at the forefront of their public work. But as we have seen with the farm bill and the mighty farm lobby, all we really get from politicos is a lot of hot air and false promises.

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