Do conservatives and more importantly Congressional conservatives mean it when they say they want to cut spending or do they talk out of both sides of their mouth? I have some doubts ans so does Michael D. Tanner of the CATO Institute.
Last month, when the conservative Republican Study Committee released its plan for $2.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next ten years, one enormous item of wasteful government spending was conspicuously missing — farm subsidies.
Hmmm. Farm subsidies are like double didgit billions of dollars. That’s a lot to miss. Oh, my mistake. Mr. Tanner was being polite.
Perhaps that reflects the fact that 24 of the RSC’s 165 members sit on the House Agriculture Committee, the notorious overseer of farm-welfare programs. Total direct government farm payments to the districts of those 24 representatives alone costs taxpayers more than $1 billion per year. Numerous other RSC members hail from farm states, and therefore have a vested interest in protecting payments to their constituents. For example, RSC chairman Rep. Jim Jordan is not a member of the Agriculture Committee but represents an Ohio district that receives $30 million in direct payments annually.
Apparently not all Republicans received the Tea Party’s message last November.
We are also seeing the usual quadrennial pilgrimage of supposedly fiscally conservative Republican presidential candidates to Iowa, where they swear eternal fealty to farm subsidies generally, but, even worse, to ethanol subsidies in particular. Perhaps the most revolting example of this spectacle was former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s claim that opposition to ethanol subsidies and mandates stems from “big city” folks who just don’t like farmers.
Newt, your such a twit! Why don’t you do America and the Republican Party a favor and retire. Oops! It’s not just Newt.
But Gingrich is hardly alone. Mitt Romney defends farm subsidies as a “national-security issue,” because somehow if farmers don’t get an annual government check, al-Qaeda will hold our food supply hostage. Romney, of course, is also a big backer of ethanol subsidies, as is former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who once keynoted the annual convention of the American Coalition for Ethanol. Sarah Palin? Mike Huckabee? Sorry, they are on the farm-subsidy/ethanol bandwagon too. Indiana governor Mitch Daniels sounded promising: “Farm subsidies in general ought to go away,” he says. But he too can’t break the ethanol addiction. A “national-security issue,” he says.
Damn! This hurts. Pawlenty, Huckabee, Palin and Mitch Daniels too? We are so screwed. And, what’s this thing about “national security”? I didn’t know ethanol was a national security issue.
As for ethanol, this is a program that cost taxpayers $7.7 billion last year while driving up food and gasoline prices — and that causes more environmental damage than it solves. The national-security argument is far more slogan than reality. Ethanol’s impact on oil imports is minimal, less than 1 percent according to some studies. We could plant subsidized corn on every square inch of available land, and we would not significantly reduce our reliance on imported oil (most of which actually comes from such hostile countries as Canada).
Let me see if I got this right. We are spending $7.7 billon a year of tax payer’s money to drive up food cost and drive up gasoline cost to save 1% on imported oil? That doesn’t make me feel more secure But, I’m sure that Archer Daniels Midland is smiling all the way to the bank.
Okay. Enough of the snark. Folks, we conservatives and most specially our congressional conservatives can’t just talk the talk. We either stand for reduced spending and governing within the framework of the constitution or we don’t. Tanner puts it this way:
…. since the rise of the Tea Party, many Republicans have rediscovered fealty to the Constitution. Witness the cheers for Judge Vinson’s decision striking down Obamacare on constitutional grounds. One might ask, therefore, where these “constitutional conservatives” find constitutional authority for farm programs?
That is a fair question, don’t you think? Our politicians from the farm states and the Tea Parties in those states need to be talking to the voters and telling them the truth. And the truth is that my ox and your ox and everybody elses ox must be gored and bled out. We simply can’t aford any more government subsidized oxen. Period!