Chris Edwards
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It’s a good thing that the farm bill failed to pass the House, but it is disturbing that about three-quarters of Republicans voted in favor of this massive spending bill. The House billwould have spent 47 percent more over 10 years than the 2008 farm bill ($940 billion vs. $640 billion). Most of the spending is for food stamps, so GOP farm bill supporters would have essentially ratified the recent huge spending increases on this welfare program.

I watched some of the farm bill action on the House floor, and it was sad to see so many supposed fiscal conservatives speaking in favor of it. Looking on the official websites of these farm subsidy supporters, they all claim to be deeply worried about overspending and deficits. The cognitive dissonance must be jarring to them.

Here are position statements of members I noticed on C-SPAN, who were speaking in support of the nearly $1 trillion farm bill:

Rep. Mike Conaway: “Our nation is in a budgetary crisis. Last year, the federal government borrowed about 40 percent of all the money it spent. And today, our national debt stands at more than $16 trillion, with more than $5 trillion added in the past four years. As a CPA and fiscal conservative, I am committed to working with my colleagues to cut spending and put our fiscal house in order. Congress does not have a blank check; it is vitally important that we balance the federal budget.”

Rep. Austin Scott: “Washington continues to spend at unsustainable levels … We owe it to our children and grandchildren to make the tough choices and devise a long-term solution that gets our economy back on track and reduces our deficits.”

Rep. Rodney Davis: “Today, our debt is growing faster than our economy and Washington’s promises are growing faster than its ability to pay for them. Regardless of political party, this is completely irresponsible. Our nation is facing the greatest debt in its history–a debt that we will pass along to our children and grandchildren if not addressed. This is a crisis that we cannot ignore any longer. It is a crisis that will require us to look at all areas of our government, defense and non-defense, to get our spending under control.”

Rep. Steve King: “We must also balance the federal budget … and I plan on fighting every day here in Congress to reduce federal spending and get our nation’s fiscal house in order.”

Rep. Rick Crawford: “Out-of-control government spending is a byproduct of a broken Washington. For far too long, Republicans and Democrats alike have operated under the false assumption that they can spend their way into prosperity… I was elected to office to end Congress’s reckless spending spree and chart our country on a better path. Let me be clear: Congress has a spending problem, not a taxing problem. We cannot continue to finance these bad spending habits by borrowing from foreign countries like China, and sticking our children and grandchildren with the bill. We cannot continue to swipe the nation’s credit card and live beyond our means… As long as I am a Member of Congress, I will remain committed to reining in government spending, balancing the budget, and returning to our nation’s founding principles of limited government.”

These are all admirable sentiments, but these congressmen are ignoring their own promises and proclaimed principles in their support of massive farm and food subsidies. They all voted for a subsidy bill that was 47 percent larger than the one that even profligate President George W. Bush vetoed because it “would needlessly expand the size and scope of government.” 

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Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, and editor of www.DownsizingGovernment.org. Before joining Cato, Edwards was a senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and an economist with the Tax Foundation.

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