HILL CITY, Kan. — This is what Washington’s new austerity has brought.
A freshman Republican congressman, himself a fifth-generation corn farmer and his family a longtime beneficiary of government agricultural subsidies, drove through the endless fields of far-flung western Kansas to deliver a difficult message.
“Everybody needs to share,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp told a few dozen townsfolk sitting patiently on the hard wooden benches of the Graham County Courthouse. “If you’re a farmer like me, you’re going to expect less. Something’s going to go away. The direct payments are going to go away.”
Huelskamp appears to be right. Dramatically cutting or eliminating direct crop subsidies, which totaled about $5 billion last year, has emerged as one of the few areas of agreement in the budget talks underway between the White House and congressional leaders of both parties.
In their recent budget proposals, House Republicans and House Democrats targeted farm subsidies, a program long protected by members of both parties. The GOP plan includes a $30 billion cut to direct payments over 10 years, which would slash them by more than half. Those terms are being considered in the debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, according to people familiar with the discussions.
“There’s no sacred cows anymore,”
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, who believes the federal government is on the brink of bankruptcy and has called for an end to the “welfare state,” received federal farm subsidies for land that the fiscal conservative owned in Kansas in the 1990s.
The acknowledgment by the Miller campaign that he accepted farm subsidies follows a story by the Alaska Dispatch, which discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that he got $7,235 in subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1991-97.
It drew a sharp response from critics, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which headlined a news release: “Extremist Joe Miller also a hypocrite.”
The next time you hear a Republican or a teabagger complain that President Obama is moving the United States closer to "fascism and socialism" (despite the two philosophies being ideologically opposite of one another), remember this: some of these same people are taking thousands of dollars in a form of "socialism" that we usually don’t think about: farm subsidies.
For those not in the know, farm subsidies are when the government pays farmers and businesses in the agricultural field to (a) supplement income, (b) manage commodity supply, and (c) influence commodity cost.
Here’s the dirty little secret: some politicians, mostly Republicans but also a few Democrats, figured out how to make tons of money off of this "socialism for the wealthy." It also comes as no coincidence that most of these particular politicians come from largely rural states.