FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Bipartisan Love Fest at the House Agriculture Committee
While we are struggling to repeal the government takeover of healthcare, a bipartisan bicameral group of politicians are further entrenching government control of Agriculture. They are also agreeing to enshrine Obama’s food stamp spending into the welfare system indefinitely.
We have witnessed a robust counteroffensive against the farm/food stamp bill among great writers and policy makers in the conservative movement. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many members in Congress who are willing to speak out against this big government, market-distorting, dependency-inducing bill. I was naturally elated to see that Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) stepped up to the plate and joined Senator Jim DeMint in speaking out against the farm bill.
Schweikert’s cogent piece at Investors’ Business Daily hits on all the key points we’ve been highlighting here the past few months. The politicians and the media will have you believe that the bill contains record cuts to food stamps. Schweikert blows the cover off this fallacy:
Despite the fact the Senate cosponsors claim this farm bill could save $23.6 billion over the next decade, the actual 10-year cost of this bill dwarfs the 2008 farm bill at a CBO-projected $604 billion.
It does not take an economist to note that a 62% increase in spending while we approach $16 trillion in debt is simply unsustainable. […]
In the 1970s, just one in 50 Americans received food stamps. Today, that number is one in seven, or more than 46 million Americans — that is 15% of the U.S. population.
The cost of the program doubled between 2001 and 2006 and again from 2008 to 2012. Taxpayers now spend $80 billion a year on food stamps, a level the Senate bill would lock in for the next decade.
What about much-vaunted farm subsidy cuts?
Compounding these problems, the Senate has proposed a new crop insurance subsidy known as “shallow loss” that effectively creates a 90% revenue guarantee. What other industry gets a 90% revenue guarantee?
With that kind of safety net in place, it would not be hard to envision a scenario where the system is abused. What incentive would farmers continue to have to work hard and contribute to the food supply when their risk is removed and their profit ensured?
Moreover, a government safety net removes private competition from the marketplace and with it any hope of fostering economic growth.
It’s really very simple. Government subsidies that engender market distortions are the very things we campaigned against when Democrats controlled all branches of the government. Obama’s $75-$80 billion in annual food stamp spending is something that we all hung around the necks of the Democrats. Naturally we wouldn’t ratify and consummate those spending levels, would we? Yet, 16 Republicans voted for it.
Well, now the ball is in the GOP-controlled House, and they appear to be approving the same socialist bill, albeit with some quirks and a few billion more in food stamp cuts. As we noted earlier this week, while eliminating direct subsidies, the bill actually expands upon market-distorting target price subsidies and creates new crop insurance programs. In some respects, it adds more spending than the Senate bill; in other areas it expands government’s role only slightly less. Although the House bill cuts $16 billion more in spending, again, this is just $16 billion off the baseline increase of several hundred billion. You will hear dramatic media reports throughout the day decrying “severe” cuts to food stamps in the House committee-approved bill. The reality is that this bill shaves off a mere $16 billion from the roughly $772 billion in projected 10-year outlays. As Rep. Schweikert noted, this bill locks in the Obama-era levels of spending.
Yesterday, there was bipartisan support to turn back three commonsense amendments to the draft bill at the committee markup. Rep. Bob Goodlatte offered an amendment to phase out sugar price supports and import restrictions, which increase the cost of most food products while enriching a few special interests. It was defeated 10-36. He then proposed an amendment to strike a New Deal-style program that limits dairy production when prices drop below a specific level. It was defeated 17-29. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) proposed an amendment to cut an additional $35 billion from food stamps. These cuts were actually already approved by the committee in the spring as part of the House GOP effort to replace the sequester, pursuant to the reconciliation instructions prescribed in the Ryan budget. Nevertheless, this effort was defeated 13-33 see how Republicans voted here).
The underlying bill passed 35-11 (see how Republicans voted here). Only 4 Republicans voted no (Bob Goodlatte (Va.), Marlin Stutzman (Ind.), Bob Gibbs (Ohio) and Tim Huelskamp).
Folks, this is not the way forward. We will never limit government, wean dependency, or restore the free market when so many Republicans sign onto bills like this.
Speaker Boehner was correct when he said that we have a “Soviet-style dairy program in American today, and one of the proposals in the farm bill would actually make it worse.” We urge him to block the bill from consideration this session. Let’s defeat the farm bill and wait until we control all of government to enact real reforms.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project