Before the strain of staying on our best behavior breaks us, here’s some more well-deserved invective concerning the food-stamp-free farm bill. Gail Collins, in the NYTimes, on the GOP’s “Tasty Bites theory of government”
… Lately, the House has begun chopping up big, complicated bills into what Speaker John Boehner once described as “bite-sized chunks that members can digest.” No more legislative sausage-making. No more bipartisan trading. The House was going to stick to clean, simple ideas, more along the lines of Liver Snaps.
So the farm bill got divided. The two parts were not equally tidy. As Ron Nixon reported in The Times, the rate of error and fraud in the agricultural crop insurance program is significantly higher than in the food stamp program. Also, the agriculture part has a lot of eyebrow-raising provisions, like the $147 million a year in reparations we send to Brazil to make up for the fact that it won a World Trade Organization complaint about the market-distorting effects of our cotton subsidies.
And while food stamps go to poor people, most of the farm aid goes to wealthy corporations.
So House Republicans passed the farm part and left food stamps hanging…
The House bill actually spent more money on subsidies for farmers than the bipartisan Senate version the Republicans scorned. It also dropped the Senate’s limit on aid to farmers with incomes of more than $750,000 a year. And while it mimicked the Senate in dropping most of the much-derided direct payments to farmers, the House gave cotton farmers a two-year extension.
Let’s take a special look at cotton, which is a particularly good example of the tendency of agricultural benefits to flow uphill. “Some of these guys — and they’re all guys — are getting more than $1 million in support. The bottom 80 percent are getting $5,000 on average,” said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group.
Faber’s organization, which keeps careful track of these things, says direct payments to cotton farmers since 1995 have totaled $3.8 billion. That does not count the annual $147 million the United States has been sending to Brazil in hush money…