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Igor Birman


I got to re-live an old childhood memory this week.

Growing up in the Soviet Union, all three TV channels would cease regular programming from time to time to breathlessly announce a new five-year plan of government-imposed price controls, production quotas and intricate regulations.

Despite the promises of plenty, only poverty followed, until national bankruptcy forced the five-year plan onto the ash heap of history, saving its future TV mentions only for late-night comedy shows.

Or so I thought, until the House of Representatives took up the Farm Bill, in which it tied a reauthorization of the food-stamp program, itself in desperate need of reform, to – wait for it – a new five-year plan of government-imposed price controls, production quotas and intricate regulations of agriculture.

To make matters worse, this relic of the past would plunder every family of four in America of almost $3,000 to provide handouts to the struggling Monsanto, Dole and Del Monte, drive up the prices of imported cotton and olive oil, promote the use of healthy plants, advertise Christmas trees in case you forget Christmas is coming, and, in an ironic twist, pay for culinary master classes in St. Petersburg, Russia, just to name a few.

All this in a Republican bill in a Republican House of Representatives.

But the good news is that the Farm bill’s defeat offers Republicans a second chance – a rarity in politics – to cast aside the five-year plan in favor of freedom in three simple steps.

First, honor the promise made in the Pledge to America – on the basis of which the American people entrusted Republicans with the House majority in 2010 – to advance major legislation one issue at a time and separate food stamps from farm programs.  Each issue is fundamental enough to the future of our country to deserve its own debate.  Congressman Marlin Stutzman attempted to do just that, and yet his amendment was killed in the House Rules Committee.

Second, block grant food stamps to the states.  Abuse of the program is rampant, oversight is lax, and states are far better equipped to tailor benefits to the needs of their citizens.  I know this first hand.  I received food stamps along with my family when we first arrived in the United States two decades ago.

Third, reject the putrid notion that taxpayers ought to guarantee an agricultural conglomerate’s profits with their hard-earned money.  The result is families already struggling to survive tough economic times paying higher taxes for the privilege of paying higher prices at the grocery store.

And yet the failed Farm bill, while ending direct payments to farmers, was festooned with crop insurance programs to assure its beneficiaries that their losses will be borne by somebody else.

In essence, the Farm bill brazenly told every family in America: “These businesses get to keep their profits, but you get to share in their losses.”  How’s that for fairness?


The Wall Street Journal was right in calling these practices crony socialism, and Republicans should be at the forefront of their abolition, because clamoring for free markets while voting for Soviet-style central planning is a sleight of hand that voters will likely not forgive.


Nor should they.  They elected Republicans on the express condition that Republicans would champion freedom, cut waste and restore prosperity that this nation once knew.  Republicans broke that commitment once before, and the result was four painful years of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Next time, they will not forgive for a generation or more to come.

So, let’s admit an inconvenient truth: we don’t have that long to save what Lincoln once called “the last best hope of mankind.”

IGOR BIRMAN serves as Chief of Staff to Congressman Tom McClintock.