The Corner

“You’re Going to Lose If You Keep This Up”

As Sean Hannity issued the above warning to congressional Republicans today on his show, the House — including enough Republicans (100) to amass a veto-proof majority — passed the pork-laden farm bill.

We editorialized on the bill:

The program is nothing more than a massive income transfer from American taxpayers to a small handful of very large producers who grow just a few crops; the program can’t be serving the purposes its defenders claim it does — ensuring a stable food supply and keeping farmers out of poverty — considering that a majority of American farmers do just fine without government aid; and disputes over the large U.S. and EU farm-subsidy programs have opened an apparently unbridgeable divide between developed and developing countries in the current round of multilateral trade talks. The only conclusion one can reasonably draw is that the system is broken and ought to be scrapped.

Brian Riedl wrote earlier today elsewhere on NRO:

With food prices soaring, it takes some gall to force Americans to pay billions of dollars to millionaire agribusinesses. Yet that’s what the latest farm bill would do.

Since the last farm bill was enacted in 2002, the five crops that receive the lion’s share of farm subsidies have also enjoyed massive price hikes: cotton (105 percent price hike), soybeans (164 percent), corn (169 percent), wheat (256 percent), and rice (281 percent). For consumers, these price hikes have caused financial pain domestically and near-riots abroad. For farmers, it’s a sunnier story: Total net farm income has leaped 56 percent in just two years, and helped bring the average farm household’s income to a record $89,434, and its net worth to $838,875.

During this crop-price boom, continuing to subsidize farmers makes as much sense as paying Apple to make another generation of iPods.

Yet instead of cutting, Congress’s answer is to harvest even more farm subsidies. The latest version would increase payment rates for more than a dozen crops and increase conservation subsidies. Although the same farmers already receive massive annual subsidies, plus taxpayer-funded crop insurance, Congress would also layer a new permanent disaster aid program. Release of any disaster aid would require an emergency declaration, so expect Congress to declare an emergency any week that it rains — or doesn’t rain.

Farm subsidies have long been America’s largest corporate-welfare program. Rather than help small, struggling family farmers, the majority of subsidies go to commercial farmers, who report an average income of $200,000 and a net worth of nearly $2 million.

Republican leadership ought to crack down on Republicans who supported the bill. Will it? Unlikely.

Consider, for instance:

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., netted tax breaks for the thoroughbred horse racing industry in the farm bill worth $126 million over the next 10 years, a provision that helped guarantee his support for the hotly debated bill.

The provision ensures that all racehorses are depreciated over three years for tax purposes, regardless of when the horses start training. The current tax code doesn’t reflect the entire length of a horse’s racing life, according to a National Thoroughbred Racing Association analysis of Jockey Club racing data.

“While many Americans identify the horse industry as one of Kentucky’s signature industries, its economic impact extends well beyond the borders of the commonwealth,” McConnell said.

Reidl says: ” farm subsidies will continue costing taxpayers at least $25 billion annually.” Yay! Thanks for the leadership!

Enjoy the roll.

UPDATE: Really do read the roll: Blunt … Kingston … Putnam … What a crowd…

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