Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I’m Ripping You Off

I’m Ripping You Off - New York Times: By Nicholas D.Kristof
What’s especially dispiriting is how quickly the House Democrats under Speaker Nancy Pelosi have tumbled from idealism to cynicism. The Democrats had promised reform — but then the House leaders worried that scrapping welfare for farmers might hurt the re-election prospects of some newly elected Democrats. So they killed the reform proposals (which are backed by many rank-and-file Democrats).

But as a former farm kid myself, let me say what a lot of farmers and ranchers are too polite to say: Farm subsidies are a cancer on rural America itself. The subsidies have raised land costs, driving out small farmers and undermining the family farm by encouraging consolidation.

The benefits overwhelmingly go to producers of just five crops — wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans and rice — with livestock producers mostly left out. The majority of payments go to commercial farmers who earn more than $200,000 annually, while 95 percent of farmers get little or no benefit from the farm bill. That’s why my friends from my F.F.A. days speak contemptuously about those who make a living “farming the government.”"

I don't know beans about farm policy, but all I read suggests that existing policies do not line up very well with the values that support family farming in America. And this is one of many domains in which Congressional Democrats, newly restored to majority status, are rapidly falling back into bad old habits. There is the view of the apocryphal non-voter "that voting just encourages them." Given the alternative, I can't go that far, but some days are pretty discouraging. Today's report that Dems are rushing to enact a bill to legalize some warrantless surveillance activities out of fear of being branded "soft on terrorism" doesn't help. The Administration has apparently responded to calls for oversight of potential abuses of this new legislative authority by assigning the task to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

That is not a joke from The Daily Show, although it sure sounds like one.

Kristof concludes this way:

There is a familiar trajectory when a political party takes power. At first, it brims with ideals. Then it makes compromises to stay in power. Finally, it becomes devoted simply to staying in office. Can Ms. Pelosi really have compressed this downward spiral into just six months?

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