Current Events

The GOP Farm Bill

On another note: The Republican-controlled House just passed a Farm Bill that spends more on agricultural subsidies (an especially deplorable form of corporate welfare) than does the Democratic Senate Bill or Obama’s original proposal.  They separated the agricultural subsidies from the food stamps portion of the bill, to protect the former from the latter– because, you see, food stamps are a divisively controversial item in the House GOP caucus, whereas subsidies for agribusiness are not.  This illustrates an all-too-common Republican approach to spending: it doesn’t count as spending as long as it redistributes upward.

The House bill also makes commodity supports– the terrible peanut and sugar and so on programs– permanent, eliminating even the minimal check on them that was provided by requiring that they be renewed every five years.

  • Theresa Klein

    Repellent. How did the “Tea Party” Republicans vote?
    You would think (hope) that Tea Party Republicans would be against agricultural subsidies.

    • ThaomasH

      “You would think” that only if you believed their rhetoric.

  • Fernando Teson

    I agree, it is shameless.

  • Fernando Teson

    One other point to notice is the terrible harm that this bill does to producers in developing nations.

    • jtlevy

      Yep. That’s most of what I mean by “especially deplorable.”

      • Libertymike

        The party of the protective tariff has always been the party of crony capitalism.
        Red from the Start.

    • Sergio Méndez

      More deplorable when devoloping nations are almost forced to sign “Free Trade” agreements…and some libertarians actually think they are really about free trade

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    Both parties have their beholden contituencies. In the case of Republicans one of their biggest is the farm lobby. This could only go away if there were a part of the constitution making special protections or payments to any business entity or industry forbidden.
    Not much chance for any new amendments curtailing the central government to pass. Oh well, they would probably just ignore it anyway, like they do much of the rest of the constitution.

  • Sean II

    “This illustrates an all-too-common Republican approach to spending: it doesn’t count as spending as long as it redistributes upward.”

    This example does not support that conclusion. Not even close.

    Republicans support farm subsidies because their power base is located in places like Kansas, Nebraska, etc. That fact gives us a fully sufficient explanation for their behavior.

    Besides, the vast majority of all statist policies have an upwardly redistributive effect – which is something I thought BHL’s were supposed to know.

    • j r

      Of course it supports it. The mentality is simple: food stamps are wrong because they support the lazy, but farm support is good because it supports hard-working salt of the earth people. Granted this may be more of a rural vs urban thing as many Democrats have similar feelings.

      • Sean II

        Nope. You’re making the same mistake as Levy.

        Electorally successful political parties don’t act on beliefs (indeed, don’t even have beliefs). They act on interests.

        Try to model their behavior with ideas, “mentalities”, etc, and you end up with nonsense. Try to model their behavior with public choice, median voter theory, etc, and you can predict their moves about 90% of the time.

        • j r

          I’m not making any mistake. It’s likely that we’re just talking past each other at this point, but you’re not saying anything particularly interesting.

          A model is just a mathematical, or other-structured, representation of an explanation to some thing or another. The difference between a model and a verbal explanation has to do with precision and nothing to do with sense vs. nonsense. You can have a very elegant and precise model that is just plain wrong.

          To adopt your suggestion for a moment, however, all I’ve said is that Republicans vote down on food stamps and up on farm support because the median Republican voter views food stamps as a government handout to the unworthy and ag subsidies as support to hardworking and deserving Americans.

          • Sean II

            Still wrong, but now spiced with self-contradiction.

            First of all, if you’re using median voter theory to explain why Republicans don’t like food stamps but do like farm price supports, then you’re using a model…which makes your second paragraph seem pretty silly.

            Second and more importantly, you’re not using the median voter concept correctly. Republican policy isn’t shaped by what median voters think, it’s shaped by interest groups and then sold to median voters.

            The party hacks don’t sit down and ask “what do the folks want in Peoria?” They first get approached by organized factions who know exactly what they want, and then the hacks have to figure out how to make it play in Peoria.

            So to sum up: don’t dis’ models if you’re going to use them, and if you use them, use them right.

          • j r

            According to Sean II, if a political theorist and a quantitative political scientist enter the same room at the same time, the universe will implode.

          • Sean II

            Probably it would, since of the two entities you described, the second one does not exist.

    • jtlevy

      Where their power base is located is not somehow unrelated to their beliefs.

      • Sean II

        As responses go, that wasn’t one.

        • jtlevy

          ” So Republicans are happy to satisfy rent-seekers (agribusiness and farmers) who are part of their winning coalition, especially those in key districts – and are happy to exploit what seem to be “welfare measures” as a cover to satisfy them.”

          As with campaign donations, so with pork: politicians’ beliefs and their interests strongly tend to converge. A politician who feels his interests to betray his beliefs often has enough agency to make some changes in the important donors and constituents he represents, and if he doesn’t, a politician whose beliefs seem to be at odds with their is untrustworthy to them, and they’ll prefer a more committed spokesman. Both by treatment effect and by selection effect, convergence ends up as the normal state of affairs. Massive cognitive dissonance and the sleepless nights of knowing oneself to be doing the wrong thing aren’t the norm.

          • Sean II

            1) “As with campaign donations, so with pork: politicians’ beliefs and their interests strongly tend to converge.”

            Even if that were true, it doesn’t save your point. There is no such belief as “I support upwardly redistributive policies”. No one is for that. No one says that openly. No one professes that. Nor indeed does Republican party behavior betray that pattern any more than Democratic party behavior. One can’t converge on a belief that doesn’t exist.

            You could have said something true (but very bland) if you’d said “it doesn’t count as spending…if it goes to one’s allies.” But then it would have been all too obvious that you were not saying anything about Republicans in particular.

            2) “Massive cognitive dissonance and the sleepless nights of knowing oneself to be doing the wrong thing aren’t the norm.”

            You, sir, have clearly never met or worked with these people.

            They engage in massive cognitive dissonance and then they DON’T LOSE SLEEP. That’s what makes them successful in politics. Even to speak of “knowing oneself to be doing the wrong thing”, when you’re talking about politicians and party hacks, is just a category mistake.

          • Bryan C. Winter

            I have agreed with most of what you said up until point 2. Even Hitler Thought he was doing the right thing. Human beings by nature are not sociopaths, and nothing about politics pre selects sociopaths.

            In fact sociopaths have a harder time in politics because people know they are sociopathic and no one trusts them. Ironically, trust is the most important commodity in these circles, at least when the political elite are communicating with each other. It takes trust to bring someone into your inner circle.

            The combative nature of politics makes us think they are bad people, but I think it actually works in the opposite. People don’t have interests as much as people have incentives and people have morals.

            I don’t think it is a stretch to say that people choose to associate with the party they do based upon their own pre-conceived notions of right and wrong, and their donors tend to be people who agree with them ideologically. It is also not a stretch to say that people who agree ideologically tend to be involved in industries or enterprises where that prevailing norm is shared with people within that feild.

            There is a reason Hollywood votes democrat and farmers tend to vote republican. Their cultures shape their beliefs. These groups are then drawn from when the parties recruit. It is much better for the party to get a true believer in the trenches than it is to get a sociopath who will say anything to win. The behavior we get from them is a result of them picking and choosing their battles, understanding they have limited political capital to spend, and they are incentived to act the way that they do.

            Keep in mind many people in politics are independently wealth. They certainly aren’t doing it for the palrty 200k a year for serving in congress. I think ideological purity can only come from a moral standpoint, and that it is only the incentive structure of the real world that erodes that purity in face of the need to be practical and to bring a win back home.

  • Pingback: The GOP Farm Bill()

  • Basvandervossen

    Terrible. But we need to keep calling people out on this. Great stuff, Jacob.

  • Pingback: Top Democrat Goes Off On GOP For Slashing Food Stamps | News Times Today()

  • Pingback: Top Democrat Goes Off On GOP For Slashing Food Stamps – VIDEO |()