I’ve been hearing from readers challenging my disgusted comments about the politics of the farm bill.
The bill is so awful that the Washington Post says it deserves a veto:
Tipping the financial scales at $956 billion over 10 years, or just over $1 billion per page, the hideously complex bill is supposedly a compromise that reforms crop subsidy programs…what the bill takes from the ag lobby with one hand, it largely gives back with the other…the bill cuts $8.5 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the poor…attached to so much corporate welfare, it’s hard to swallow, especially when that corporate welfare isn’t rigorously means-tested.
The New York Times doesn’t go that far. It supports the bill, but grudgingly: “The farm bill could have been worse:”
On balance, the bill is clearly worthy of support, particularly because it will prevent austerity fanatics in future Congresses from gutting food stamps for the next five years….But endorsing the bill also means acknowledging the low expectations for real progress in Washington…As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues, rejecting the farm bill means rolling the dice that the next Congress will do a better job. In today’s environment, that’s a tough bet.
Why is the farm bill politically corrupt?
- It is indeed “hideously complex,” so much so that nobody can possibly make intelligent decisions about very much of it.
- It is so difficult to read (because it refers to previously legislation) that all kinds of things can get into it without being noticed or discussed.
- It is mired in “pork,” things put into it by members of agriculture committees to please particular groups of constituents or lobbyists.
- It is not about what’s best for the American people, farmers, or the poor; it is about what’s best for getting legislators elected.
- It represents a substantial transfer of taxpayer dollars to the wealthiest “farmers” (i.e., agribusiness) at the expense of the poor and, therefore, legislates further income inequity.
I’m with the Washington Post on this one. If the Senate passes it and the president signs it, it’s only because they’ve given up on trying to govern the country from some rational perspective.