The Artlessness of Politics

“A vote for this bill is a vote to end nutrition in America,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. … “Thank God, we can do something!” exclaimed Rep. Tom Rooney R-Fla., as he walked off the floor…

via House Approves Farm Bill, Without Food Stamp Program – NYTimes.com.

Well. The House passed a Farm Bill, finally.

Of course, they left out the food stamps, so I suppose it was easy.

For weeks, Republicans and Democrats could not agree on what to spend on food stamps. Apparently, it got ugly, even for an institution known for its ugliness. In the end, they simply agreed not to agree and sent the farmer-specific bits along to the printer.

Explaining himself afterward to reporters, Speaker John Boehner said, and I am not making this up, “If ands and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.”

This is a politician, mind you. An experienced speech giver. And that — basically a list of some of the things poor people may not be able to afford at Christmas — is the best he has.

Not only was it hackneyed, but he flubbed it, too. People of Earth: It’s “ifs and buts.”

Really, the vote Thursday by the House was a punt. It only eliminates food stamps in the imaginary world of polemicists and blog posters; Congress will still have to find a way to pay for them. The difference is now Republicans won’t have angry farmers breathing down their necks, asking them why the Farm Bill hasn’t passed. They will be able to focus their beady little eyes on giving poor people what-for.

Which, to be honest, is what most people really want — shrinking the cost of food stamps a bit, I mean.

And, to be honest, unhooking aid for poor people from aid for farmers probably makes sense, from a lawmaking-philosophy point of view. Never mind that very little in Congress does otherwise. Or that quite a few farmers qualify as poor for our purposes.

There were a few interesting — and by interesting I mean NOT interesting — footnotes. There is more crop insurance. There are more juicy perks for guys who grow peanuts. And lawmakers went in and erased a handful of unpleasant legacy laws from the Depression, which — and I am not making this up, either — kick in if Congress doesn’t get off its duff every now and then and write a new Farm Bill. (And you thought sequestration was an innovation.)

The point is, things will work out. The Senate has already passed a food-stamps-included Farm Bill, cutting less than a percent from the poor-people parts. And House Republicans promise, they really do — Eric Cantor of Virginn-eeya told The Associated Press his colleagues would “act with dispatch” — to get around to this food stamps business.

I am sure that red-state farmers are relieved. My question is, Why?

The first thing any farmer will tell you if, heaven forfend, you suggest that the Farm Bill might be too expensive is, Well, most of that is for food stamps. And this is true. About $80 billion of the $100 billion, according to the original House bill.

But what do you think food stamp users are buying, more often than not? Foods, which I observe are the very things farmers make with all the money the government sends them in the first place. Maybe a lot of the money goes to big conglomerates. Certainly there is waste to sop up. But does it make sense to turn your back on your customers?

In any case, don’t pity the farmer. It says here, being in food is going to be very good business over the next few centuries.

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