Commentary Magazine


Topic: farm subsidies

Obama’s Off Key Farm Subsidies Pitch

The Obama campaign is in full attack mode this week, and President Obama’s campaign speech in Iowa today shows the level of cynicism in the Democrats’ attempt to bash Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. While stumping in the Hawkeye state, the president criticized Ryan for blocking a farm aid bill that is before the Congress and which he described as vital to helping rural communities survive both drought and an economic downturn. But does Obama really think voters are dumb enough to believe this?

The president’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act isn’t a legislative equivalent of a farm aid concert. It is a mini-stimulus package aimed at playing favorites in the agriculture industry and represents exactly the sort of massive government spending that both sides in last year’s budget impasse agreed could not be sustained. But the farm bill isn’t just yet another example of the Democrats’ penchant for crony capitalism; it is also an attempt to preserve farm subsidies that virtually everyone in Washington knows are an unsustainable boondoggle that represent the worst in patronage politics. Far from the president’s championing of this issue being part of a coherent plan to demonize Ryan, his backing of farm subsidies merely illustrates why Ryan’s reformist ideas are needed now more than ever.

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The Obama campaign is in full attack mode this week, and President Obama’s campaign speech in Iowa today shows the level of cynicism in the Democrats’ attempt to bash Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. While stumping in the Hawkeye state, the president criticized Ryan for blocking a farm aid bill that is before the Congress and which he described as vital to helping rural communities survive both drought and an economic downturn. But does Obama really think voters are dumb enough to believe this?

The president’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act isn’t a legislative equivalent of a farm aid concert. It is a mini-stimulus package aimed at playing favorites in the agriculture industry and represents exactly the sort of massive government spending that both sides in last year’s budget impasse agreed could not be sustained. But the farm bill isn’t just yet another example of the Democrats’ penchant for crony capitalism; it is also an attempt to preserve farm subsidies that virtually everyone in Washington knows are an unsustainable boondoggle that represent the worst in patronage politics. Far from the president’s championing of this issue being part of a coherent plan to demonize Ryan, his backing of farm subsidies merely illustrates why Ryan’s reformist ideas are needed now more than ever.

To highlight his supposed concern for farmers, the administration today ordered a $170 million government meat purchase aimed at appeasing voters in agricultural states and ensuring the president a warm reception in Iowa. But the issue at stake here isn’t a hard-hearted Ryan presenting an obstacle to suffering farmers as the president says but rather the shockingly cynical manner in which the Democrat seeks to buy farm votes with government largesse.

If there is anything we should have learned after a century of government spending on such farm bills it is that the results have more to do with satisfying private interests than the economic health of the nation. The subsidies are, as the Heritage Foundation rightly notes, wasteful handouts that are as unnecessary as they are corrupt.

Though he travels the nation decrying the ills of Congress, his farm bill demonstrates all that is wrong with the business as usual culture of Washington that Paul Ryan has spent his career trying to change. For decades, politicians have played Santa Claus, giving out gifts to the taxpayers. But informed citizens understand the goodies they receive from leaders like President Obama are but a fraction of the enormous wealth taken from taxpayers. The president famously said four years ago that he favored a redistribution of wealth from the rich to others less well off. But the farm bill symbolizes what he really means: a policy of taking from the middle class and giving it not to the poor but to favored special interests.

The farm bill Obama is touting isn’t so much about helping dry farms as it is about promoting the same sort of wasteful “green” expenditures that produced the Solyndra debacle. These farm subsidies were always bad policy but in an era of crushing federal debt, they are a luxury the nation can no longer afford. If Obama thinks he can win re-election by supporting a corrupt status quo, he may have offered Romney and Ryan yet another opportunity to highlight the administration’s failure to think about anything but narrow and cynical political interests.

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