We have some big challenges facing the Republican Party in Congress right now. The GOP lost our majority 2006 in a large part because our party became that which we opposed – the party of big spending. When the 2006 elections were over, the Club for Growth conducted surveys in 15 competitive House seats (where neither candidate was tainted with scandal) and guess what they found out? The GOP had completely lost its fiscal conservative branding. The most startling results was when those polled asked which political party in Washington was “The Party of Big Government” – the results? Republicans 39.3% and Democrats 27.9% – shocking, and sad. (Read more about the CfG survey here).
Yesterday, the lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal was all about how the Republicans, now in the minority in Congress, still don’t get it (in terms of the need for fiscal restraint). Here is an excerpt:
Facing this terrible challenge as a political party, along comes the final vote on the grotesque and bloated Farm Bill.
Before we go on, let’s look more closely at the Farm Bill…
Here are just a few key points about the Farm Bill as outlined by the Club for Growth:
• The elimination of key limits on annual commodity payments
• Spending gimmicks that disguise over $10 billion in spending increases
• An increase in subsidy rates despite sky-high crop prices and record farm incomes
• Direct payments for crops that are not based on a farmer’s income, crop prices, or any standard of need
• The creation of a new, permanent disaster aid program, creating incentives to grow the wrong crops on bad land in bad weather
• Tax breaks for special interests like race horse owners and timber companies
If that isn’t enough to turn your stomach, here is an excerpt from an editorial that ran Wednesday in the Investor’s Business Daily, Harvest of Shame:
As Heritage Foundation economist Brian Riedl has noted, since enactment of the last farm bill in 2002, prices for key crops have surged 281%. And they’re still surging.Yet, we continue to support, subsidize and shower this sector with billions in taxpayer dollars. Also Wednesday, the government reported that in contrast with tame inflation overall last month, food prices shot up 5.1% from a year earlier — the largest gain since 1990 (see chart).
Reform? In addition to $25 billion a year in subsidies and $5 billion in direct payments to farmers, regardless of crop prices, the bill provides another $1 billion for food stamps, school lunches and other social programs; more protection for sugar growers; tax breaks for thoroughbred race horses; money for fruit and vegetable marketing; more cash support for "organic" foods; and, of course, a billion more for biofuels. But not a shred of "reform."
With this as the backdrop, you have to wonder what on Earth nearly half of Congressional Republicans were thinking?? One hundred Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for this terrible legislation, and in the U.S. Senate, it was even worse with only 13 Republican Senators (one third!) opposing the Farm Bill.
Looking at our California Republican Members of Congress, we can be pretty proud of our delegation. Of 19 Republicans, 14 voted against the bill, and one (Mary Bono Mack, whose father passed away) did not vote. So only four Republicans voted for the Farm Bill you just read about above – John Doolittle, Elton Gallegly, Wally Herger and George Radanovich.
You have to ask yourself – what are these Republicans thinking? Shame on all four of them for supporting this legislation. They are not the only California Republican Members of Congress who represent districts with a lot of agricultural interests and farms – somehow Dan Lungren, Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and others managed to put principle over big spending.
I was especially saddened to see John Doolittle’s vote on this bill. I’ve known John for over twenty years, and since he is retiring this year, and will not be facing voters ever again, you would think he would put conservative economic principles over the politics of redistributive wealth for agricultural interests. Perhaps decades in public office can blur the perspective of even the most conservative politicians (where are those Congressional term limits?).
The only good news out of all of this is that President Bush has promised to veto this bloated Farm Bill. And while it may ultimately be over-ridden by Congress, I would like to see Mssrs. Doolittle, Gallegly, Herger and Radanovich vote to override one of this Republican President’s few vetoes when his veto message will be all about fiscal conservatism.
Congratulations to the vast majority of the California GOP delegation who did the right thing in voting against the bill. This Farm Bill reeks of the kind of largesse that cost us our majority. If we were serious about winning in November, we’ll let the Democrats put this lard-filled package on the President’s desk, await his veto and then uphold it, demostrating the contrast between our parties. But, it appears that maybe as a party we just don’t get it. Which does not portend well for this November…
[Oh yes, this guy naturally supports the Farm Bill - no surprise, unfortunately.]
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