Congress’ New Year’s Resolution: Old Ideas, Bad Policy
For many Americans, the dawn of a new year is celebrated as an opportunity to take new chances, do things differently, improve one’s self and help one’s fellow man, or start over. And while not everyone is successful at dialing back the Twinkie’s for very long (unless you’re the union bosses), most Americans at least make an effort.
For Congress, a new year, especially an election year, is merely another opportunity to make minimal reforms and pass bad legislation that they could not complete the previous year. Take the farm bill. This $1 trillion food stamp and farm welfare bill was successfully defeated by conservatives last June in an embarrassing failure for House leadership and a historic victory for the American people. Conservatives spoke up and made it clear that they wanted no part in implementing President Obama’s failed food stamp agenda and continuing the charade of tying food stamps to large agribusiness subsidies.
But as is the norm in Washington, bad bills tend to have what is known as the ‘zombie legislation’ effect. No matter how many times these bills are stopped, they always seem to find another way to rear their ugly, taxpayer-eating heads!
In July, House leadership promised they would do what they should have done all along: separate food stamps and farm programs. But instead of separating them in order to reform an out-of-control food stamp program and lavish taxpayer-funded farm subsidies, House leadership separated them just so they could pass two bad bills in a deal that would send the $1 trillion food stamp and farm welfare bill to conference to be joined together again. To quote Democrat Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) during the first conference meeting, “The $40 billion figure [in House food stamp cuts] was a way to get us to conference. It wasn’t a real figure.”
Apparently Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor see fit to put Humpty Dumpty back together again in spite of conservative objections. And what minimal reforms were made are likely to be washed away in the final conference agreement. This means the American people will be left picking up the tab for massive new subsidies like shallow loss crop insurance as well as paying for a Soviet-style dairy program and nearly $800 billion in food stamps with little-to-no meaningful reforms. In fact, House Republicans will potentially be voting to cut only one-fifth of what they have already voted to cut in food stamps—a paltry 1% of a program that has doubled twice in the last decade.
It may be a new year, but Washington is already up to its old tricks.