Saturday, July 13, 2013

Food Stamps and the Republican Party

Ross Douthat on the latest craziness from the Republican House, which passed a farm bill that raises subsidies for farmers, including wealthy and corporate farmers, but completely strips the Food Stamps program out of the bill:
This is egregious whatever you think of the food stamp program, and it’s indicative of why the endless, often-esoteric debates about the Republican future actually matter to our politics. Practically any conception of the common good, libertarian or communitarian or anywhere in between, would produce better policy than a factionally-driven approach of further subsidizing the rich while cutting programs for the poor. The compassionate-conservative G.O.P. of George W. Bush combined various forms of corporate welfare with expanded spending on social programs, which was obviously deeply problematic in various ways, but not as absurd and self-dealing as only doing welfare for the rich. . . . Reasonable people can disagree, in other words, about what kind of conservatism would best serve the common good. But everyone should agree that any alternative would be preferable to a Republican Party that doesn’t seem to think about the common good at all.
I suppose there is no special reason why Food Stamps should be part of the agriculture bill, but the tradition was established decades ago, and this is how things are done in America. So we have conservatives who are, first, contemptuous of tradition, and second, are only opposed to government programs when they help the poor. American politics have become such a mess right now that it is really hard to watch.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I take it you mean, we have conservatives who are only opposed to government programs when they help the poor.

My understanding is that the pairing of agri subsidies and food stamps came from the original deals that got food stamps through Congress. Farm state reps, who I presume saw food stamps as cutting into agri markets, would only agree to vote for food stamps if they went with agri subsidies.

The demise of that kind of cynical deal-making is one of the reasons our politics are in such a fix. I suspect a lot of Republicans believe they are displaying a kind of praiseworthy, selfless ideological purity. I deeply prefer LBJ's materialistic, nonideological, backslapping effectiveness any day.