—and in the Process Puts the Lie to the GOP Truisms about Cutting Spending and Conducting the People’s Business in the Open
Predictably, Progressives across the nation are expressing outrage at the Farm Bill just passed by only eight votes in the House of Representatives (every Democrat and 12 Republicans voted against the bill’s passage). After failing to pass a Farm Bill about a month ago, even though passing the Farm Bill has become one of the most routine things that the Congress does, the House reintroduced the bill, stripped of any mention of food stamps, school lunches, and other subsidized food programs for the poorest of our poor, about thirty to forty percent of whom are children.
What should surprise Progressives is that the conservative Heritage Foundation has also issued a statement expressing outrage at the bill—in part because it does not address the issues of subsidized food programs for the poor and in part because, ahead of its accelerated consideration and passage, the supposedly “stripped down” bill was loaded with “pork” largely beneficial to corporate agriculture.
So the Farm Bill passed by the House does not actually “save” any taxpayer dollars; instead, it simply transfers those dollars from the poorest Americans to the wealthiest Americans.
Here is the statement released by the Heritage foundation:
“House Republicans passed a farm bill today with a vote of 216 to 208. When the House leadership first announced it would separately consider the food stamp and farm components of the ‘farm’ bill, it looked like they got the message that current farm policy was in dire need of reform. With separation, real reform to rein in market-distorting programs and special interest handouts could finally happen. But now that separation has occurred, they’ve forgotten the very reason why separation was needed in the first place.
“Supporters of this farm-only farm bill wasted the golden opportunity that separation could have provided: the ability to promote policies that benefit taxpayers, farmers, and consumers in a fiscally responsible way. With the passage of this bill, the House has gone even further to the left than the Senate bill. It would spend more money than Obama on the largest farm program, crop insurance.
“On top of all this, the process House Republicans used to get this 600-plus-page bill to the floor in a mere 10 hours essentially violates their own promise to conduct business in an open and transparent manner. They prohibited legislators from introducing amendments. And, they played a game of bait and switch by claiming this bill was the same text from the failed House farm bill of a few weeks ago.
“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.”
This kind of rhetorically charged legislative sleight of hand has become commonplace not just in the federal House of Representatives but in state legislatures dominated by the Far-Right. In those states, funding for safety-net programs, for basic health services, and for education have all been subjected repeatedly to deep cuts in the name of fiscal necessity and fiscal responsibility. Yet, in almost every instance, government spending has continued to increase—and often to increase dramatically. (For how this has happened in Ohio, see my recent post “In Politics, Violating Your Own Truisms Is the Definition of Cynicism,” available at https://academeblog.org/2013/07/02/in-politics-violating-your-own-truisms-is-the-definition-of-cynicism/.]
Some of the increased spending is going quite directly to corporate welfare. But much of it is disguised as “privatization,” which simply means that corporations rather than public servants are being paid to deliver public services. The Far Right advocates of privatization claim that the private sector can deliver those services more efficiently and cost-effectively. But any actual evidence of those savings has been provided very selectively if at all.
What is clear is that privatized services—from charter schools to privately operated prisons—often have considerably higher administrative overhead than even the public agencies that they are replacing and that the ordinary employees are paid considerably less.
And, yes, that does sound exactly like the current corporate model at work.
But we should become much more insistent that the advocates of this model provide evidence that it actually works to improve public services and not simply to further enrich corporate interests at the expense of the public interest.