The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Crony “Cropitalism”

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Green Acres, a zany television sitcom that aired on CBS from 1965 to 1971, featured the antics of a former New York City attorney, Oliver Wendell Douglas (portrayed with stuffy effectiveness by Eddie Albert), and his ditzy, socialite wife, Lisa (played by the lovely Eva Gabor), who have invested their wealth into a dilapidated farmhouse and the equally dysfunctional farm on which it sits.  The highfalutin city dwellers have moved to rural Hooterville, a surreal community of country bumpkins where everyday rules of common sense just don’t seem to apply.  In fact, one episode featured a storyline in which the townfolk were convinced that they could receive tax refunds without ever having paid taxes:  to Oliver’s bewilderment, they did.

If Oliver Douglas was still farming today, he may be equally surprised to learn what other rewards the government might bestow for inaction, or at least for lack of entrepreneurial energy, particular in the agricultural sector.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the various updates over the years to the recurring Farm Bill, with its myriad efforts to second-guess the marketplace and to subsidize the shrinking number of agricultural producers, usually in the name of supposed “fairness” against imports of foreign-subsidized commodities.

Ahead of the June 20, 2013 floor consideration of H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (more commonly referred to as the 2013 Farm Bill), the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) identified 33 amendments to the legislation that merited special consideration.  CCAGW supported 24 amendments regarding issues ranging from target prices of special interest commodities to elimination of unnecessary marketing programs to repeal of the permanent farm law itself.  CCAGW opposed nine amendments, for either perpetuating or exacerbating existing bad policy, or implementing new (bad or worse) policy.

Unfortunately, on these 33 amendments, the interests of taxpayers prevailed only 15 times, for a success rate of 45 percent of CCAGW-targeted votes.  Even worse, only seven of the 16 amendments that had recorded votes prevailed, for a success rate of 43.75%.  Contributing to that less-than-half figure were 46 Republicans who voted against taxpayers and in favor of preserving market interference and cronyism.  These “fiscal conservatives” can be found at CCAGW’s “Farm Vote Follies.”

Why Republicans?  Consider this:  Stereotypes of members of Congress hold that Democrats never met a subsidy or a set-aside that they didn’t like, while Republicans expound the virtues of free markets and fiscal conservatism.  That’s the problem with stereotypes:  they are never 100 percent accurate.  With this in mind, CCAGW highlighted those Republicans that voted against the American taxpayer and consumer more than 50 percent of the time on these amendments.  Interestingly, these 46 Republicans represent almost one-fifth of the GOP majority, which has 234 members in the current Congress.

Since the overall farm bill was defeated, there may be another opportunity for some of these representatives to stand up for taxpayers and change their votes in order to reform some of the more egregious examples of wasteful spending.  However, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has proposed a cynical ploy to ram through a scaled-back version of the Farm Bill, taking the committee-passed version and adding in the amendments that passed the House, as well as a provision to repeal the 1949 permanent farm law, but to proceed under a “closed rule” – i.e., with no more amendments, and therefore, no opportunities for additional reform.  If he succeeds, then he is only enabling (and perpetuating) the bad provisions inherent in centrally-planned agricultural policy.  As in past iterations, the 2013 Farm Bill would simply cement special-interest handouts to a handful of commodity producers (and their well-paid lobbyists).

Green Acres was accompanied by Vic Mizzy’s iconic theme, a composition so memorable that even those who cannot remember a single episode can sing along to it.   Fans of the melody might be amused by a more contemporary twist to the tune’s opening lines, adapted to fit the current crop of crony corporate welfare Congressmen: “Greenback” Acres is the place to be! “Farm Bill” livin’ is the life for me!

This sentiment might explain the fervor with which certain commodity interests cling to the Farm Bill’s state-sponsored protections.  With any luck, such provisions – much like a television series that is outdated – will be cancelled.

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