Belatedly, I’ve come across the review by Jonathan Martin of Politico of the book Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t by Robert Kaiser, a 50-year reporter and editor at the Washington Post. What struck me was that both of these very knowledgeable Washington journalists seem very clear-eyed about the deficiencies of the legislative process, and yet their understanding doesn’t cause them to question the idea of having government manage every facet of our lives.
Whenever Republicans attempt to cut spending for some social welfare program or another, Democrats are quick to claim that it is not unaffordable spending that the Republicans dislike, but poor people. By passing the farm bill this week — after stripping out spending for the food stamp program — House Republicans showed that that stereotype is largely true.
The “new” farm bill (with food stamps jettisoned because “conservatives” object to what they see as lavish welfare spending) passed the House today on strictly partisan terms, 216-208 (roll call), with a mere 12 brave Republicans voting no.
It appears that I spoke too soon. According to a news article from Chris Clayton, one of America’s best agriculture reporters, the new House farm bill, due to be voted on today, will not necessarily be the gift to reformers I thought it might. The key paragraph of Chris’s story:
There exists in the Department of Commerce an irrelevant Great Society relic called the Economic Development Administration. With a relatively small budget of around $400 million, the EDA acts as a slush fund for Congress to shovel subsidies to their districts for projects that should be funded locally or privately.
The Roll Call blog has just broken news that the GOP House leadership has decided to drop food stamps from the farm bill, in an attempt to get the farm subsidies passed by the House, presumably with Republican votes alone. Nutrition is quite an “appendage” to jettison, by the way: it usually accounts for about 80 percent of all “farm bill” spending. Here’s a great infographic on food stamp usage from the Wall Street Journal online.
Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy has an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal this morning (may be pay walled) that calls for cutting the Pentagon’s bloated budget in a smart way, one that doesn’t hit training and readiness as hard as across-the-board cuts. She chooses to focus on reforming how the Pentagon procures goods and services, but that isn’t the only way to cut spending without undermining the nation’s security.
On a drive back from a visit to Monticello yesterday, I listened to Jon Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson. In 1784 Jefferson was interested in a project to improve trade routes to the West from the Potomac River. In a March 15 letter to George Washington, he wondered whether it might be a (state) government-supported project, but admitted one problem with that idea:
The Fourth of July is again upon us — a day for gathering with friends and family to celebrate the birth of our country. We commemorate those brave colonists who, unified in their opposition to tyranny, fought against British oppression.
The IRS has announced it will postpone the start date of Obamacare’s “employer mandate” from 2014 to 2015. Most of the reaction has focused on how this move is an implicit acknowledgement that Obamacare is harmful, cannot work, and will prove a liability for Democrats going into the November 2014 elections.