Why the RSC won’t put farm subsidies on the table

WHY THE RSC WON’T PUT FARM SUBSIDIES ON THE TABLE…. When the far-right Republican Study Committee unveiled their spending-cut plan last week, the GOP lawmakers had plenty of targets. But it’s what they left out that’s especially interesting.

The Republican Study Committee plan to slash $2.5 trillion over the next decade was fairly ruthless in its scope. In the short term, the cuts would eliminate, among other things, transportation and infrastructure projects, energy research, and aid to states. Over the longer term, these Republicans are also eyeing drastic cuts to education, medical research, law enforcement, and homeland security, deliberately putting tens of thousands of Americans out of work in the process.

The RSC proposal, however, wouldn’t touch the massive Pentagon budget, Social Security, Medicare … or farm subsidies.

As eager as they are for a fight with the White House, Republican budget cutters have a problem in their own back pasture: what to do about a system of farm subsidies that’s still pumping billions into GOP districts at a time of record income for producers.

Net cash farm income for 2010 is projected to finish near $92.5 billion — a 41 percent increase even after subtracting payments from the government. Yet conservatives are almost tongue-tied, as seen last week with the Republican Study Committee’s proposal to eliminate relatively modest subsidies for an organic food growers program without mentioning the nearly $5 billion in much larger government direct payments to farm country 00 including to the home districts of many of the RSC’s members.

Indeed, 24 of the RSC’s estimated 165 members hail from the House Agriculture Committee, and total annual direct payments to their districts run more than $1.09 billion a year, according to a POLITICO review of data compiled by the Environmental Working Group. RSC Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan doesn’t sit on the Agriculture panel but represents an Ohio district that ranks among the top 50 recipients of farm subsidies, including $30 million in annual direct payments.

In most credible policy circles, farm subsidies are considered a no-brainer when looking for savings in the federal budget. It’s not even ideological — plenty of conservatives are disgusted by this spending.

But the Republican Study Committee, ostensibly some of the most right-wing, anti-government, anti-spending crusaders, somehow managed to take a buzz-saw to the budget, while carefully avoiding farm subsidies.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this wasn’t an accident.

This is important, of course, because it’s become a hallmark of contemporary conservative thought: spending on me and people like me is great; the real problem is the money that goes to those other people.

It’s why Matt Taibbi can find a nice couple at a Tea Party rally that has spent their life living entirely off money from the government, but who are nevertheless getting involved to protest because “too many people are living off the government.” It’s why we find all kinds of conservatives who hate government spending in general, but love it when it’s directed to them.

The allegedly principled Republican Study Committee is playing the exact same game, offering a reminder on why the party lacks credibility on the issue.