It's a rare feat: a legislative action that infuriates virtually all parties involved. Kind of an anti-compromise, I guess. But that is exactly what the food-free Farm Bill seems to have accomplished.
Some of the accounts I have read include Andrew Sullivan's terse dismissal:
The House Republicans just pushed through a farm bill with extremely generous farm subsidies while scrapping the usual corollary food stamp aid. It doesn’t get clearer than that. There’s no small government consistency here – just an embrace of subsidizing Big Ag and a contempt for the needy in a long, protracted growth recession. Are they trying to make themselves look like total douchebags? [[More with his links to other commentators]But of course, he is not a real conservative anymore, having been "frummed" out like like so many.
So let's check in with say, The Heritage Foundation for their congratulations:
In fact, they made this new bill even worse—by making sneaky changes to the bill text so that some of the costliest and most indefensible programs no longer expire after five years, but live on indefinitely. This means the sugar program that drives up food prices will be harder to change, because it doesn’t automatically expire. It also means the new and radical shallow loss program that covers even minor losses for farmers will indefinitely be a part of the law. [More]But to make it easy, Chris Clayton at DTN has assembled much of the response from the hard right.
My favorite rant (it was hard to pick) was by Derek Thompson.
The farm bill passed by the House of Representatives yesterday is pretty much a disgrace. Republicans took legislation that had historically been 80 percent food stamps and 20 percent mostly awful and antiquated agribusiness subsidies. And they passed something that is 0 percent food stamps and 100 percent mostly awful and antiquated agribusiness subsidies.
"Billions for farmers, nothing for the poor" is a stark assessment, but a fair one.
[This last link - by Matt Iglesias - was a doozy too.]
Perhaps the best analysis I saw in this midst of all the outrage is from the WaPo:
“[T]he one explanation that almost always explains support for agricultural protection,” the paper concludes, “is the electoral pressure a legislator faces, i.e., the proportion of her constituents who are farm owners or farm managers.” Other things, like lobbying or a politician’s farm background, can also matter, but they have a weaker effect.Well, it's good to have some academic justification of something most of us considered obvious, but like the other comments, few have any idea of what happens next.
This was unexpected. The average number of direct agricultural constituents in a House district was only about 1 or 2 percent — there simply aren’t many farmers left in the United States. But those voters care a lot about farm policy. And most other voters don’t care much about farm policy at all — and are unaware of the costs of agricultural subsidies.
In an interview, Bellemare stressed that his paper is a work in progress — it’s not yet published — and he’s still responding to critics. For instance, it’s a bit tricky to analyze votes on the 2002 and 2008 farm bills because they contained both crop subsidies and money for food stamps. So the authors have used a variety of techniques to tease out lawmakers who are casting votes for food stamps and those who favor the actual farm subsidies.
One notable thing they’ve found recently is that lawmakers with high levels of poverty in their districts are actually less likely to favor farm subsidies. This suggests that the traditional set-up of farm bills — where food stamps are included to create an urban-rural alliance — has in fact made it much easier for the previous farm bills to pass.
“We can’t say that for certain from our results,” Bellemare says. “But it certainly seems like that coalition is a necessary condition of these bills passing.”
Of course, the House has now taken the step of splitting the farm bill in two, which could scramble the politics further in years ahead. It’s hard to draw too many hard conclusions from yesterday’s vote, since it’s a bit of a special case — the House leadership was trying different tactics to pass a massive farm bill that had already been written, and temporarily splitting food stamps and farming seemed like one way to go. [More]
In all, I think it was a monumental blunder by the House leadership and TP faction. They did not appease the far right - just the opposite. And they managed to split a sector that voted overwhelmingly red into bickering splinters.
But farmers are mistaken if they think this approbation will be confined to Congress, I suggest. The AFBF has had the right of this for some time: Keep out of the spotlight at all costs. Without food stamps to distract, the awful truth about ag spending is made transparent. This move has tarred my profession with the same brush.
And nobody - not even us - thinks we're going to work to add another food bill "later".
Really, NCGA is going to patrol the halls of Çongress to pass funding for SNAP? It's not like SNAP recipients are food consumers...no,wait...
So this is exactly what it looks like: My boys got me mine. Too bad about those other guys.
All in all, I think odds just became slightly higher for farm program cost reduction and reform as the ag lobby in Washington has lost control. And getting even there will burn more bridges than we can imagine.