What Would Friedman Do?
A day to mark government growth.


Deroy Murdock

Today’s Democrat-controlled House of Representatives continues this fiasco. It approved a $307-billion farm bill on May 14, by a vote of 318 to 106. The Senate endorsed this largesse the following day, 81 to 15. Among other damage, this legislative monster gives $3.8 billion in disaster assistance to those who already have received $5.2 billion in direct payments for their “historical planting average,” even if they have stopped farming. While typical GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan (unmarried E-4s with four years’ service) dodge and, too often, catch bullets for just $41,591 annually, couples with yearly incomes up to $1.5 million still can receive agricultural subsidies. Democrats consider these wealthy growers rich enough to slam with tax hikes, yet poor enough to soothe with farm welfare. Which is it?

Meanwhile, calamitous ethanol assistance survives, dreadful sugar supports expand, and those who cultivate lentils, chick peas, salmon, and even race horses join the dole. Want a new tractor? Uncle Sam will help you buy one.

Greedy politicians who use taxpayers’ money to buy the votes of equally greedy farmers collectively soil common decency. Furthermore, they are an international embarrassment to a nation that still claims to be Earth’s chief repository of limited government and free-market capitalism.

These trade-distorting subsidies likely will encourage foreign countries to erect retaliatory barriers. Perhaps America’s already porcine farmers will balloon into morbid obesity by wolfing down the wheat, soybeans, and rice they soon may have trouble exporting.

While record-high agricultural prices cause belt-tightening at home and food riots overseas, this farm bill cruelly demonstrates that most Washington politicians don’t give a damn about anything but their reelection prospects.

“Pain at the grocery checkout line? Starvation abroad? Whatever. Just keep me inside the Beltway.”

Republicans are supposed to squelch such rubbish. And yet 100 House Republicans approved it. GOP voters, already disgusted by Republican profligacy, will find this betrayal of their party’s core principles enervating. Democratic voters will back their party’s genetic big spenders, rather than the GOP’s hypocritical posers. In an effort to “save” farmers who never had it so good, congressional Republicans have put themselves in mortal danger on Election Day.

Until then, Americans should consider a question as relevant now as when Milton Friedman asked it in 1962’s Capitalism and Freedom: “How do we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect?”

– NRO contributing editor Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution© 2008 Scripps Howard News Service


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review