Wednesday, April 10, 2002

How Washington Thinks 101

As it does each year, Congress is currently working on an agriculture bill. As usual, it will end up larded with dozens of programs to subsidize the cultivation of any product grown in a state with a powerful enough congressional delegation. Since the family farmer (the only politically untouchable category left that includes white males) is sacrosanct, there is little debate over whether to spend tax money to make food more expensive and subsidize risks that farmers themselves can't afford. AP reports on how negotiations are going: "Congressional negotiators say they want to finish work quickly on an overhaul of agriculture and nutrition programs, but first they must resolve a dispute over how to subsidize grain and cotton farmers." Not whether to, just how to. Now there you have a healthy debate between two competing interests - the Democrats who think subsidies should be tied to changes in commodity prices and the Republicans who prefer sending farmers a fixed yearly check. With conflict like this, who needs bipartisanship?

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