The Best of the Forge
After the stunning defeat of the food stamp and farm bill last month on the House floor, multiple reports have surfaced that Republican leaders are considering separating food stamps from farm programs. Now, thanks to unscripted, public comments by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), we know talk of separating the bill is nothing more than a procedural gimmick intended to perpetuate the status quo.
Asked about the so-called farm bill, Rep. Roe acknowledged he “thought the farm bill was about farming; it turns out its really not.” He explained “for the first time, we’re going to separate the farm bill” from the food stamp spending.
On June 20, 2013, something rather monumental happened: The House defeated the trillion-dollar food stamp and farm bill by a vote of 195 to 234. Among the 234 in opposition were 62 Republicans, many of whom wanted the farm bill title to be considered separately from the food stamp title.
This was a decisive victory.
Had the bill passed, as the$955 billion Senate “farm” bill did, a compromise version would have likely landed on President Obama’s desk for signature. Of course, he would have been eager to sign all this food stamp spending into law; food stamp participation has already doubled during his presidency, reaching over $80 billion a year in 2012. After all, as Dan Holler noted, Mr. Obama considers food stamps an economic stimulus; but thinking of food stamps as an economic stimulus could not be further from the truth. Money spent on the food stamp program comes from one of two places: taxpayers’ wallets or massive deficit spending.
Yesterday we noted that though the defeat of the farm bill was a decisive victory, the separation of $740 billion in food stamps from the nearly trillion-dollar farm bill would be yet another critical step. If that separation occurs, we’ll finally be accurate when we call the “farm bill” the “farm bill.” But this separation will be meaningless if it is not followed by real reform of the farm and food stamp programs.
Fortunately, Heritage has outlined 6 reforms Congress can put in place to improve farm policy.
Make no mistake, despite claims of reform the recently defeated House farm bill did not do nearly enough to remove the risk imposed on taxpayers or mitigate the harm done to taxpayers, consumers and small farms. The fundamental flaws of this outdated legislation remain.
Last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its final rule outlining a so-called accommodation for its coercive Obamacare mandate. Heritage’s Sarah Torre explains in an article on National Review Online that this is typical of the administration.
The Senate’s top tax writers recently announced that all the tax breaks that currently litter our tax code could be on the chopping block if they rewrite the tax code this fall. Now, special interest groups are up in arms, fearful that they may lose the lucrative tax breaks they’ve become so accustomed to receiving.
National Journal reports that special interest groups spent $773 million during the 112th Congress on tax lobbying. They are working overtime to make sure their tax breaks don’t get whisked away in a tax code overhaul in Congress.
It would be worth every dime for them, too. The incentive lawmakers have to rewrite the tax code is clear: our current code is riddled with loopholes, resulting in massive economic distortion. Many of these tax breaks – roughly $1.3 trillion a year – should be eliminated as part of a broad rate reduction; yet, because of powerful special interests, they are “notoriously hard to eliminate.” Thus, tax writers’ in Congress have adopted a blank-state attitude toward them.