JONATHAN CHAIT JANUARY 25, 2011
Last week, the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee released a series of proposed spending cuts that would eliminate or near-eliminate a host of government programs:
Among the items the group proposes to eliminate or decimate: the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Title X birth control and family planning, AmeriCorps, the Energy Star program and work on fuel efficient cars, and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Notice anything missing from that list? Yes -- agriculture subsidies:
As eager as they are for a fight with the White House, Republican budget cutters have a problem in their own back pasture: what to do about a system of farm subsidies that’s still pumping billions into GOP districts at a time of record income for producers.
Net cash farm income for 2010 is projected to finish near $92.5 billion — a 41 percent increase even after subtracting payments from the government. Yet conservatives are almost tongue-tied, as seen last week with the Republican Study Committee’s proposal to eliminate relatively modest subsidies for an organic food growers program without mentioning the nearly $5 billion in much larger government direct payments to farm country — including to the home districts of many of the RSC’s members.
What makes this so noxious is that farm subsidies are the largest program that has no intellectual support behind it. Nearly any policy wonk, whether liberal, conservative or moderate, would say they have no justification whatsoever. If there's any part of the federal budget that deserves wholesale elimination, this is it. Yet the RSC spares it.
Indeed, as Dana Milbank writes, the RSC proposal is budget cutting as culture war. The targets are programs associated with liberalism and the cultural elite, as evidenced by the RDC's decision to confine its agriculture cuts to a small program for organic food. (Take that, you hippies.) All in all, a remarkably hypocritical performance from the RSC.