This is from Gail Collins whose Saturday-humorous column in the Times often includes -- why not? -- a knife to the gut of the issue.
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.
Crop insurance gets bigger under the new plan. Here’s how: You, the taxpayer, fork over the majority of the cost of the farmers’ policy premiums. (Up to 80 percent in the case of cotton.) Also, you spend about $1.3 billion a year to compensate the insurance agents for the fact that they have to sell coverage to any eligible farmer, whatever his prospects for success. Plus, if yields actually do drop, you have to compensate the insurance companies for part of the cost of claims.
Is this beginning to sound a little like Obamacare? No! No way! The House Republicans hatehatehate Obamacare! They vote to repeal it as often as they change their socks! Because Obamacare will, you know, distort the natural operation of the markets.
The larding of benefits to farmers didn’t come up during the House debate. It was all about food stamps, and Democrats asking to know why their colleagues wanted to cut aid to hungry children and old people. During an Agriculture Committee meeting on the bill, Representative Juan Vargas of California quoted Jesus’ lesson that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
That raised Representative Fincher’s hackles. “Man, I really got bent out of shape,” he told that Memphis audience, proudly reporting that he countered with Thessalonians: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
By now, you must be wondering why I keep bringing up this guy. Fincher is a farmer who has, over the years, received $3.5 million in federal agricultural subsidies, much of it for — yes! — cotton. ...Collins. NYT
Matt Yglesias is just plain pissed off -- and he knows all about the real poison in the tea.
Some people who advocate large-scale cuts in government programs that assist low-income families are not in fact motivated by callous disregard for the welfare of poor families. Some of them are driven by a principled dislike of government programs. The 216 House Republicans who voted for today's agriculture bill, however, are not in that group. In the wake of last month's legislative shenanigans the GOP leadership decided to move a bill that exclusively funds farm subsidies with no food stamps component at all.
Because they don't have a problem with spending $195 billion over ten years, they just want to make sure it goes to the right people. Not poor people, in other words. Farmers. Farmers who, on average, are richer than the typical American. ...Yglesias, Slate
And 216 Republicans voted for it.