Farm subsidies would seem a fairly easy target for budget cuts. They were a bad idea even before farm income boomed in recent years. They encourage bad ideas like monocropping and overuse of fertilizer. A lot of it goes to absentee farmers and big farm corporations.
So naturally, the GOP Congress is going to respond to this flaming budgetary bullseye by creating the illusion that they are cutting them:
It seems a rare act of civic sacrifice: in the name of deficit reduction, lawmakers from both parties are calling for the end of a longstanding agricultural subsidy that puts about $5 billion a year in the pockets of their farmer constituents. Even major farm groups are accepting the move, saying that with farmers poised to reap bumper profits, they must do their part.
But in the same breath, the lawmakers and their farm lobby allies are seeking to send most of that money — under a new name — straight back to the same farmers, with most of the benefits going to large farms that grow commodity crops like corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton. In essence, lawmakers would replace one subsidy with a new one.
The proposal is to cut the direct payment program — which was supposed to be temporary back in 1996 — but then increase crop insurance and expand it to guarantee against price dips. That is, it will guarantee that farm income does not fall below is current record levels. It’s the farm subsidy equivalent of the Democrats using the stimulus-roided-up 2011 budget as their baseline.
In Parliament of Whores, P. J. O’Rourke described farm subsidies as the one program where he could not see the other side’s argument. It’s twenty years later and I still can’t say it. But we’re paying for it, all right.