Our View: Farm ‘swill’

Posted: June 14, 2013

You don’t hear much about the budget, the nation’s fisc, or those conjoined demons Debt and Deficit these days — what with metadata mining, IRS targeting, and DOJ snooping to fret our minds and try our souls.

But, rest assured, the federal debt ticker halts for no man, and pauses for no scandal. It just keeps ticking away. And because it does, it behooves us to take stock of the “farm bill,” so-called, that Congress will take up next week. Or might it be called the “farm swill”? Yes, perhaps it should.

For the record, House Speaker John Boehner, alleged conservative and protector of the fisc, indicated Wednesday he will support this monstrosity. And he’ll do so even though its price tag — $904 billion — is a mere 56 percent more dear than the projected cost ($604 billion) of the most recent farm bill, approved in 2008.

There’s a reason for such bloat, of course, but then isn’t that always the case? And the reason is that this is not so much a “farm bill,” but a food-stamps bill. In fact, 80 percent of the measure, so notes the Heritage Foundation, is tied up in food-stamp provisions.

But then, as Heritage also pointed out, if not for the food-stamp emphasis, the bill would not stand a farthing’s chance of passage. Which begs this obvious question: Why is such a “farm bill” needed at all? Why not just debate the merits of the food-stamp program, or at least the galactic increase in its reach? As we’ve noted recently in this space, more than 23 million households — or one of every five across the fruited plain — avail themselves of this entitlement.

But if further entrenchment of food stamps is the bill’s raison d’etre, there are other provisions hardly as monumental but most assuredly as cloying. For instance, the Obama administration’s proposed tax on fresh Christmas trees. Why has that taken up residence in a “farm bill”? The same might be said of a $1 million annual outlay — loose change, admittedly — for weather radios.

As Heritage noted Thursday in its Morning Bell, “Let’s be honest. This isn’t a ‘farm’ bill. It’s a food stamps-and-whatever-else-Congress-can-throw-in bill.”

Indeed. But allow us this greater bow to honesty: At a time when this nation should be pinching more than a few pennies, this slog to the trough is an outright assault on fiscal propriety Or, more accurately, fiscal sanity.