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The Farm Bill & ‘Libertarian Populism’

One step forward, two steps back. The Republican Party is like an alcoholic in recovery, with periods of sobriety punctuated by long, destructive benders as it once again falls off the wagon.

In June, a critical mass of House conservatives helped vote down a nearly $1 trillion farm bill that merged all the protectionism and cronyism that dominates modern agriculture policy with the worst excesses of the food stamp program.

Republican leaders were reportedly very unhappy, but the sweetheart deals [1] for the sugar industry and federal crop insurance program are two corporate welfare programs that are totally counterproductive for the taxpayer. Moreover, while it may make political sense to link food stamps and farm subsidies, the economic justification is less obvious.

Defeating the bloated farm bill gave Republicans an opportunity to separate these spending items so they could then trim and reform them both. Without nutrition programs for the poor making up 80 percent of the price tag, welfare for Archer Daniels Midland would receive more scrutiny.

change_me

So naturally, Republicans followed a moment of clarity by taking a nasty spill off the wagon again.

Last week, the House passed a farm bill containing all the agribusiness largesse of the one it voted down in June. In fact, the crop insurance program and the sugar subsidies were made permanent. But there was no money for food stamps, combining a fiscal disaster with a political one.

Republicans voted for this monstrosity by a margin of 216 to 12. To be sure, some felt pressure from the leadership to vote for the bill since Eric Cantor and company had magnanimously heeded their request to separate out the food stamp spending. And absent some congressional action, the country would have reverted back to the price controls and central planning of the Truman-era Agriculture Act of 1949 [2].

But the takeaway is that the Republicans once again favor welfare for the rich and politically connected while opposing it for the poor and others unrepresented by K Street lobbyists. Needless to say, it’s unclear that naked redistribution to benefit GOP clients is preferable to such redistribution on behalf of Democratic constituencies.

It’s one of the reasons Newt Gingrich’s 2012 critique of a “food stamp president” rang so hollow. Gingrich tried to make an obvious point that a measure of economic success is how many people are receiving paychecks rather than food stamps. But Republicans too often lack credibility on this point, making it easy for Democrats to suggest his complaints were just racist code words.

When David Stockman was Ronald Reagan’s budget director, he urged Republicans to attack weak claims and not just weak claimants. When Gingrich first became speaker of the House, his young Republican majority boasted an ambitious agenda of cuts to corporate welfare. Yet in practice the party still too often defaults to what New York Times columnist Ross Douthat paraphrases [3] as “small government for thee, but not for me.”

Indeed, the Gingrichites’ reforms of Aid to Families with Dependent Children endured longer than its more circuitous attack on farm subsidies. And for all the sound and fury about the Obama administration “gutting” welfare reform, the GOP’s attempt to rein in the agriculture subsidies was largely undone by subsequent Republican Congresses.

And yet an alternative does exist. Some call it libertarian or free-market populism: smash the alliance of K Street, Wall Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue. End the incestuous relationship between big government and big business. Close the revolving door and tear down the political privileges that accrue to the wealthy and powerful.

This is a populism that can largely be pursued within the confines of constitutionally limited government, as it involves ending bailouts and turning off the spigot of federal subsidies that flow to private companies. Instead let a genuine free market with greater equality of opportunity bloom.

Sometimes it will require new laws to unravel decades of state-managed corporatism. This would likely include breaking up the big banks, implementing tax reform, and imposing transparency regulations on the people who would serve in government and the large companies seeking its benefits.

Simply arguing in these terms would lead to some level of openness. Obamacare is sold as an attack on the big insurance companies, when in fact insurers, pharmaceuticals, and the hospitals were all intimately involved in its design and promotion. (It’s not surprising that the employer mandate is on hold while the individual mandate is proceeding right on schedule.)

General Electric, General Motors, and—as even the hapless Mitt Romney recognized—Solyndra are the new welfare queens.

Libertarian populists have their blind spots. They are still too fixated on tax rates that remain far from the Laffer Curve’s prohibitive range while neglecting the payroll taxes many working-class taxpayers watch consume their paychecks.

While more tolerant than some of the conservatives who came before them, they are also more naïve about the consequences of mass immigration and family breakdown for limited government. While rightly concerned about rent-seeking, libertarian populists may exaggerate the number of voters who care about the Export-Import Bank.

But the idea largely remains untried, save for a few symbolic measures pushed by congressional backbenchers. Paul Krugman may absurdly flail away [4] at libertarian populists without addressing any of their actual arguments [5]. Yet free-market populism is as absent from the GOP agenda as it is from the Times op-ed page.

The GOP stands to gain from the discovery that small is beautiful. If only it can break its destructive addiction to all things big.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [6]

Follow @jimantle [7]

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "The Farm Bill & ‘Libertarian Populism’"

#1 Comment By EngineerScotty On July 15, 2013 @ 3:11 am

Prior to the rise of the welfare state–when even the democratic governments of the world were unrepentant plutocracies, and far more still were practicing overt economic feudalism, and the plight of the common man was simply not a concern of the state, either in law, fact, or intent–then yes, the libertarian (anti-state) position was also the pro-worker one.

And today, there are quite a few programs and laws on the books that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the masses. When and where libertarians oppose these, they are acting in accord with liberals.

But other than on the subject of immigration–where a zero-sum game between domestic and foreign workers is assumed–and in opposition to parts of the environmentalist agenda (where both capital and labor in the energy industries have a common foe), very little that the GOP supports can be considered pro-worker. Most of the anti-government policies Republicans and aligned Libertarians propose are attacks on the welfare state; on the parts of government that seek to benefit the common man. Some GOP attacks claim that such programs are ineffective, but effective alternatives seem to be in short supply.

#2 Comment By dj peterson On July 15, 2013 @ 7:50 am

During his ill fated presidential campaign, mainstream Republican Mitt Romney, advertized the real face the party. The millionaire paid income taxes at a fraction of typical Americans. Among Mitt’s unfortunate blunders were comments that he felt 47% of ordinary voters are indolent ‘moochers” and that he enjoys “firing people.” Clearly, Mr Antle is on target saying:”But the takeaway is that the Republicans once again favor welfare for the rich and politically connected while opposing it for the poor and others unrepresented by K Street lobbyists.” The final vote was 216-12. The party chieftons have been on a soul searching mission pledging to render the GOP credible again to average Americans. Is anyone naive enough to believe the “reform” is anything but a scam.

#3 Comment By icarusr On July 15, 2013 @ 9:37 am

“Gingrich tried to make an obvious point that a measure of economic success is how many people are receiving paychecks rather than food stamps. But Republicans too often lack credibility on this point, making it easy for Democrats to suggest his complaints were just racist code words.”

One of the key problems of political partisans of whatever stripe is a near complete absense of any understanding of the principal relationship between “cause” and “effect”. Another is near comical absence of self-awareness – whether wilful or innate is besides the point.

This is a sober article, on the whole. One might quibble about parts here and there – for example, Libertarian “fixation” on the tax rate is a feature, rather than a bug, mostly because true “Libertarians” are the only ones who have the economic werewithal to withstand a shrunken government, mostly by living behind barricades and barrcading their wealth in far flung havens – but in general terms, at least the diagnostics are sound.

And then one comes across this paragraph. In two simple sentences, Antle betrays either deep blindness in respect of the cynical partisanship of his side, or a cynical recharacterisation, as if no one would notice. Four points:

* The point about paychques and food stamps is obvious to liberals as well as conservatives. No liberal I know – indeed, no socialist or social democrat or social activist of any stripe I have every come across in a life of mixing with social activists – w0uld question the basic point that paycheques are better than foot stamps (or welfare). In fact, we advocate unions, higher minimum wage, universal health care, protection for workers, job training, worker mobility rights, and the like, precisely so that workers get paycheques they can live on and do not need to rely on public or private charity for basic necessities, such as, well, food.

* There is not a single Democrat, liberal, social democrat or socialist in the democratic West – at least, no one in public position of any kind – who measures economic success, individual or collective – by reference to rising welfare rolls or food stamp expenditure. And not one would refer to the proponents of protection for the weak and the hungry as a “food stamp president”. Gingrich’s attach on Obama has nothing to do with econmoic success and everything to do with something else.

* You rightly note that Republicans lack credibility on this point. The question is why. It is not their love of economic success, and the Democrat’s alleged fear of it. It is not the Republicans’ penchant for truth, as opposed to the Democrats’ alleged coddling of the 47% takers. You yourself castigated Romney for his expressing, out loud, what most Republican politicians have been saying all through the last five years. If the remarks resonated, if the Republicans lack credibility on economic success for the poor, it is because their very governing and campaign philosophy has been nothing but sticking it to the poor and the helpless.

* Against this background, is it any wonder that “food stamp president” reeks of racism? It was not just that, of course. You recall the despicable attack on Obama for allegely “gutting” welfare reform. You recall the malicious lie about “restoring cuts to medicare”. And the 47% speech itself, and the candidate’s justification after the speech. The Democrats may “suggest”, but the facts are incontrovertible – and they tell a far uglier story.

#4 Comment By Frank Stain On July 15, 2013 @ 9:45 am

James Antle writes:
‘And yet an alternative does exist. Some call it libertarian or free-market populism: smash the alliance of K Street, Wall Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue. End the incestuous relationship between big government and big business. Close the revolving door and tear down the political privileges that accrue to the wealthy and powerful.

This is a populism that can largely be pursued within the confines of constitutionally limited government. . . ‘

I don’t doubt that libertarian populism is an interesting theoretical possibility. But it is not a real, political possibility because of the virtual symbiosis of the Corporate class and the State. However many populist tunes they whistle, legislators are simply not going to challenge the existing balance of power unless they have pressing financial or electoral incentives to do so.
1) They don’t have financial incentives to end corporate welfare (this goes without saying)
2) They don’t have electoral incentives to end corporate welfare because
a) due to gerrymandering, only about 30 house seats are actually competitive, and the Senate can get to 60 votes with the votes of the representatives of about 25% of the population. In other words, the political class has successfully reduced democracy to manageable proportions.
b) It is very easy for the political class to beat back populism with bouts of divide and conquer, for example, telling people that policies to limit the power of large corporations hurt small businesses, or that redistribute policies help lazy people at the expense of the hard-working.

Libertarian populism is not currently practiced, but not because people haven’t been convinced that it is a good idea. It is not adopted or practiced because of the deep-seated institutional and structural pressures and forces that coerce the political class into doing the bidding of the corporate elite.
And the most important of these pressures, is $$$.

#5 Comment By Johann On July 15, 2013 @ 10:24 am

Its seems to me that the addition of the word populism to libertarian is an attempt by the left to discredit libertarianism. Populism has historical baggage. It implies a disingenuous pandering to the masses.

Its true that libertarians are against government and business partnerships and so naturally we are against our banking system and corporate welfare. The central banking system enables the existence of too big to fail banks. The Wall St banks are even more too big to fail now than before 2008. Corporate welfare and complex regulations make it difficult for new upstart businesses to provide real competition to the behemoths. So yes, we are against the elites when it comes to crony capitalism. But the populism brand falls flat when it comes to libertarian positions on social programs.

#6 Comment By KXB On July 15, 2013 @ 10:58 am

The term “Only Nixon can go to China” came about because only a man who made his name as a staunch anti-communist would have the political capital to sit down across the table and do business with a one-party state that exported revolution, starved its own people. and nearly destroyed its ancient culture.

Only Clinton could do welfare reform. Only a liberal Democrat would have the political credibility to change the open-ended nature of welfare programs to one with a time limit.

In both cases, big changes in policy lined up nicely with more individual political goals. Nixon wanted to gang up on the Soviets, Clinton wanted to show voters he was not a 70’s style McGovernite.

If Republicans want to be taken seriously as a small government party, one of them is going to have to gut a program that is near & dear to their constituents/donors. It cannot be some arcane farm support that no one else outside the recipient group will know. It’s gotta be big, whether it is requiring gun owners to carry insurance, removing subsidies for vacation homes, or removing the absurd “carried interest” category of income.

#7 Comment By spite On July 15, 2013 @ 11:08 am

The separation of Church and State is modern gospel. What is needed now is a the separation of Business and State.

icarusr
“w0uld question the basic point that paycheques are better than foot stamps”, sorry but that is not very believable. Unless you sincerely believe that the thousands of government welfare workers whose careers depends on welfare to exist, and the big corporations who make tidy profits from government welfare – don’t care if they are no longer needed.

#8 Comment By icarusr On July 15, 2013 @ 11:37 am

Spite:

If you quote me, please do it properly.

No liberal I know – indeed, no socialist or social democrat or social activist of any stripe I have every come across in a life of mixing with social activists – w0uld question the basic point that paycheques are better than foot stamps (or welfare).

I know a lot of liberals and social democrats; I don’t know any government welfare workers or big corporations who benefit from welfare – whatever that might be. So if you are making a pedantic point that it is not believable that I know no liberal who thinks this way, well, you’re wrong.

No doubt there are some “government welfare workers” who might be chagrined that welfare rolls are or would be falling; they do not, by and large, make policy. The corporations, though they lobby, are not likely to be “liberal”. So, frankly, I have no clue what you are quibbling about.

#9 Comment By EngineerScotty On July 15, 2013 @ 11:39 am

Its seems to me that the addition of the word populism to libertarian is an attempt by the left to discredit libertarianism

“Libertarian populism” is something that has largely been proposed by the GOP and fellow-travelers, not by the left. Liberals, (for example, [8]) tend to scoff at the notion, viewing it as one more cynical attempt by the GOP to rebrand itself, and and try to win elections by changing its messaging without fundamentally changing its actual policies.

#10 Comment By Essayist-Lawyer On July 15, 2013 @ 11:50 am

A couple of observations here:

The whole assumptions of libertarian populism rest on an essentially blind faith that if government stops both subsidizing and regulating big business (and if labor unions disappear, which they basically have), then so many small businesses will flourish that big business will cease to be big. Or, in the alternative, without an alliance with government, corporations will be unable to abuse their power because they won’t have any. I don’t find either assumption very convincing.

As for bailouts, yes everyone is angry about them. I think we can safely assume that if we had let the finance system collapse and let Chrysler and GM fail, the collateral damage to the larger economy would have been considerable and even less popular than the bailouts. The libertarian assumption, so far as I can tell, is that such a crash would be worth having because it would finally scare some sense into banks and make them stop taking excessive risks. Again, I can’t see this as anything but blind faith. In the 19th Century, we had such crashes quite regularly, and the banks never seemed to learn.

Finally (and I admit your article addresses this), you have to distinguish between what libertarian populism is looks like in theory and what it is most likely to look like as practiced by the Republican Party. My guess is, as practiced by the Republican Party, it would look very much like cutting the top marginal rate and shredding the safety net.

#11 Comment By Johann On July 15, 2013 @ 11:59 am

EngineerScotty,

I may well be mistaken about the origin of the term libertarian populism. If what you say is true, then the GOP is either clueless or has a hidden objective. Such a term is too easily ridiculed by their political opponents. Its not a good strategy. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but maybe their intent is to purge the GOP of the Rand Paul types.

#12 Comment By Adam On July 15, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

Until “Libertarian Populism” is sufficiently defined to show HOW it will benefit the working class, it’s just another Republican dog whistle.

#13 Comment By Nick On July 15, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

In a way, the Republicans have done those of us who despise agri-welfare a favor. By severing farm subsidies from food stamps, they have essentially conceded that the idea that the subsidies are for the benefit of the poor was always a lie. The only justifiication for taxing those in the industrial parts of the country to subsidize agri-business is that doing so keeps the prices of food staples low, which benefits poorer Americans. But given that the Republicans were willing to support agri-welfare while ignoring a program designed to actually directly benefit poor Americans, they’ve shown that there really is no connection between agri-subsidies and the poor.

#14 Comment By spite On July 15, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

“I don’t know any government welfare workers or big corporations who benefit from welfare”, it does not matter who YOU know, people that earn their salaries working for some government welfare department, benefit from government welfare programs, its that simple. You think that in their minds something like this goes on: “Gosh I am so glad no one needs food stamps anymore, it means I can leave my cushy job for a new one”.

Having millions on welfare certainly provides votes for certain politicians, your “liberal” friends might be true believing Trostkyites, but your assertion that no leftist would want more food stamps is ludicrous.

#15 Comment By icarusr On July 15, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

” they have essentially conceded that the idea that the subsidies are for the benefit of the poor was always a lie.”

Nick: H.L. Mencken saw through this lie 80 years ago. Speaking of the American farmer, he says:

When the going is good for him he robs the rest of us up to the extreme limit of our endurance; when the going is bad be comes bawling for help out of the public till. … Has anyone ever heard of a farmer practising or advocating any political idea that was not absolutely self-seeking–that was not, in fact, deliberately designed to loot the rest of us to his gain? … There has never been a time, in good seasons or bad, when his hands were not itching for more; there has never been a time when he was not ready to support any charlatan, however grotesque, who promised to get it for him.

Excerpts on: [9]

The whole thing is a work of pure genius. And foresight. Nothing has changed.

#16 Comment By EngineerScotty On July 15, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

I may well be mistaken about the origin of the term libertarian populism. If what you say is true, then the GOP is either clueless or has a hidden objective. Such a term is too easily ridiculed by their political opponents. Its not a good strategy. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but maybe their intent is to purge the GOP of the Rand Paul types.

More likely, to co-opt the Rand Paul types.

The only part of the GOP that really has any traction among the young, is the (for lack of a better term) Rand Paul wing of the party. The young generation is not interested at all in re-litigating the culture wars; and is FTMP suffering economically, so “47%” rhetoric and other attacks on the underclass aren’t of interest to them. Furthermore, for many of them the most important where-were-you day in their lives was 9/11, followed by nearly a decade of Bush incompetence; on the other hand, these voters have no memory whatsoever of the rank Democratic incompetence of the 1970s and 1980s. The traditional GOP has nothing to offer the Millenials; Rand Paul has at least something to offer.

Of course, what Rand Paul has to offer–the parts appealing to the young (and to potential crossover Democrats, disappointed by Obama on subjects such as surveillance and foreign policy), are poison to the GOP establishment.

What would please the GOP establishment nothing more would be for the party to successfully use these issues as cudgels and a bloody shirt to win elections, so it can go on governing as before. Much the same way it has been using abortion and other topics important to social conservatives to win elections, and then only paying lip service to their concerns once in office.

While the GOP elites may not like Rand Paul’s policies, they dearly want his votes.

#17 Comment By channelclemente On July 15, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

It seems clear that the ‘dissonance’ is not cognitive.

#18 Comment By Clint On July 15, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

The Agribusiness Congressional Complex aren’t necessarily liberal or conservative. They are about ” Show Me Da Money” and the lobby money campaign pipeline effects congressional bills.

This same complex is attempting to get cheap illegal alien workers amnesty for their self serving interests at the expense of most American citizens

#19 Comment By Myron Hudson On July 15, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

“But the takeaway is that the Republicans once again favor welfare for the rich and politically connected while opposing it for the poor and others unrepresented by K Street lobbyists. Needless to say, it’s unclear that naked redistribution to benefit GOP clients is preferable to such redistribution on behalf of Democratic constituencies.”

The operative words here are “welfare” and “naked redistribution”. There’s no getting around that. It is impossible to take anything they might say about free enterprise, self-reliance, makers and takers, etc etc, seriously.

#20 Comment By arrScott On July 15, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

“Defeating the bloated farm bill gave Republicans an opportunity to separate these spending items so they could then trim and reform them both.”

Says someone, one must assume, who has not paid attention to American politics, specifically to the rhetoric or actions of elected Republicans, since at least 1995. “Trim and reform them both”? No one who has been in any way aware of the Republican Party these last two decades would write such a thing. Republicans saw to the defeat of the aggregate bill, and then separated the two policies, in order to cut government food aid. Period. Full stop. Arguments to the contrary are falsified by events: Many Republicans voted against the bill that contained insufficient cuts to food aid, while almost none voted against the bill that continued largely unchanged massive government subsidies to agribusiness.

If one wishes to reform and trim government agricultural handouts, great! Push for reform! But don’t pretend that the national Republican Party has any interest in enacting such reforms. It does not; if it did, it would have done so last week when it gave itself a blank slate on the content of the Farm Bill.

#21 Comment By the unworthy craftsman On July 15, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

The GOP of the K-Street Project is going to lead the way in reforming our crooked, crony-capitalist, corporate-welfare system eh?

I’ll believe it when I see it.

#22 Comment By balconesfault On July 15, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

arrScott captured almost exactly what I was going to comment. The Republicans severed the two programs because politically it was impossible to end food aid as long as the two programs were linked. There may be some sentiment within the GOP caucus to take at least a scalpel to the farm bill subsidies to large wealthy interests, but the GOP caucus also generally recognizes that they need to maintain a unified front in order to have clout – and that unified front continues to first and foremost be the protection of those wealthy interests.

Meanwhile – I’m not sure it is possible to be pro-worker and anti-government in the real world. This is not to argue that everything big government does is positive for American workers – but rather that without big government the living conditions of most workers in America would quickly deteriorate.

#23 Comment By Alex M. On July 15, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

I find it impossible to take people like James Antle seriously because of the fundamental and insurmountable paradox at the core of their thinking, which makes all their arguments collapse: “Small Government” they say, so small that it fits in a woman’s uterus with bonus forced trans-vaginal ultrasound? “Small Government” they say, unless you’re gay and then it’s ok for the government to ban you from ever enjoying marriage because James Antle III don’t roll that way? “Small Government” except when it forces a particularly perverse version of Christianity on everybody else: Southern Baptist or else!? So this is what passes for Libertarian?

The Hypocrisy. It burns.

#24 Comment By aegis On July 16, 2013 @ 10:30 am

@ Adam

“Until “Libertarian Populism” is sufficiently defined to show HOW it will benefit the working class, it’s just another Republican dog whistle.”

Exactly this. It’s kind of funny that Mr. Antle accuses Paul Krugman of failing to address the “libertarian populists” real argument when, as far as I know, there is no distinct “libertarian populist” argument. The most that I have seen the supposed advocates of libertarian populism put forward is Sean Trende’s observations that downscale whites (hence “populism”) are turned off by the current GOP’s mix of social conservatism and favoritism for the already wealthy (hence “libertarian”, I guess), mixed at times with a vague notion that maybe Rand Paul is pointing the way forward.

That does not make for a coherent argument that anybody can actually grapple with. The best you can do is precisely what Krugman has done–point out that, so far at least, there is no “there” there.

#25 Comment By david helveticka On July 16, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

“Libertarian Populism”? Is that like when Neuter Gingrich and the Republican Congress threw out the Glass-Steagall Act which gave us Citibank, and “Too Big To Fail”….

Oh great, let the Big Banks that financial deregulation go bankrupt, and watch the economy go into a tither. No way that Bush2 and the Republicans wanted that going into an election year. So we got the bailouts.

Of course, the little guy was protected by FICA insurance but little good that would do if all the banks were shut-down. So instead of from the bottome-up bailouts, we got the top-down bailouts, and while everyone home values tanked, the Big Banks got bigger, and financial speculation was rewarded, while the working stiff got the shaft.

Libertarian Populism? Nonsense. Libertarianism is the ideology of oligarchy, just as communism is the ideology of despotism.

#26 Comment By Ray S. On July 16, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

Food stamp use has increased 50% since 2009. Is that not enough? In understand the author’s point,but I agree wholeheartedly with slimming down that program overall.

#27 Comment By Spartacus On July 16, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

Antle wrote: “This is a populism that can largely be pursued within the confines of constitutionally limited government, as it involves ending bailouts and turning off the spigot of federal subsidies that flow to private companies. Instead let a genuine free market with greater equality of opportunity bloom.”

And how exactly would this address the concerns of the average voter? Even if the GOP did lower govt spending by doing those things, we know that the main beneficiaries of the reduced spending would be the wealthy who would receive the tax cuts that are the cornerstone of every single GOP economic proposal.

I’d also point out that breaking up banks that are “too big to fail” is the very opposite of getting govt out of the free market.

#28 Comment By Traveler On July 16, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

I thought Antle’s take was quite direct in pointing out this is as crass an attempt of corporate welfare and big gubmint as ever promulgated. Big Sugar gets 3.6B to line 3600 pockets while Caribbean nations wither and we spend another $2.8b to clean up the Everglades those considerate folks trashed. Winners all around. Cotton, another favorite for subsidized degradation of our land and water. Ethanol, the fuel that costs more carbon than it creates, while driving up corn prices. That’s in line for its billions too. Lather rinse, repeat. As I understand it, about 20% goes to support operating farms that really need it. And crop insurance is a good thing. So are conservation plans. So the Bill is by no means all pork. But the egregious handouts are unconscionable.

#29 Comment By Sean Scallon On July 17, 2013 @ 10:07 am

What is libertarian populism? Here’s a simple example that’s a lot clearer than abstract theory: A small dairy farmer likes to sell raw milk to people he knows or people who ask him to bottle it. But he runs afoul of state laws on unpasteurized milk and is arrested and tried. There have been efforts to repeal such laws and allow for such local sales provided the risks are known to the consumer up front. But Big Ag doesn’t like that because they fear milk sickness might hurt the brand of whole industry so they lean on the state to do something about these little guys who dare to defy them. That was the actual case that took place in my home state of Wisconsin and luckily the jury only convicted the farmer on a misdemeanor and didn’t send him to prison because they saw what was really going on, the state being used by powerful interests to go after the little guy.

There’s lots of stories like this out there. Heck, the whole Arab Spring was started by one fella’ in Tunisia who immolated himself because he got tired of all the bribes he had to pay the state just to sell fruit to feed his family. That’s Libertarian Populism in a nutshell, looking out for businessman not the corporation. Any party that can articulate this notion, is going to get a leg up.

#30 Comment By JB On July 17, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

Alex: do you not have access to the news in the whiny leftist cave you live in? The Libertarian Party’s 2012 (and likely 2016) presidential nominee, Governor Gary Johnson, actively campaigned in favor of what he calls “marriage equality” and is “pro-choice” on abortion.

As a libertarian and someone who voted for the LP in 2012, I tend to agree with him on same-sex marriage and partially disagree on abortion. In any event, I know a LOT of libertarians, small L and big L, and it seems that opinion is strongly in favor of allowing gay marriage if the people of a State want it, and mixed on abortion policy (as it is for the population as a whole).

What libertarians adamantly oppose is using coercion (government or otherwise) to force people to live the way others want them to live when they are not threatening, defrauding, or violating the rights of anyone else. We don’t care whether it’s your putative “Southern Baptist” value system or some other value system, we oppose such coercion.

Moreover, of active libertarians, it seems that the group is fairly non-religious, probably more so than the American population as a whole. Get out and meet a large number of actual libertarians before spouting your ill-informed
& insulting paranoid drivel.

#31 Comment By Johann On July 18, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

@david helveticka

So Gingrich and Bush are Libertarians? Really? You need to get out more.

A libertarian government would not have bought off on the usual bankster extortion racket that the entire economy will collapse if they are not bailed out. Visions of a wide-eyed treasury secretary Paulson waving his arms about come to mind – the sky is falling, the sky is falling. Yes, the crash would have been much worse, but the economy would have rebounded faster and would be a lasting recovery, similar to the 1920 crash. And the big banks would be gone. Small and mid-sized banks could have bid on their remaining assets like mortgages. They could have gotten them for pennies on the dollar. Those small banks would have been more than happy to knock off huge amounts of principle for homeowners and still made a killing. Homeowners and small banks would have made a killing off the big wall st banks. As it was the big banks made a killing off of the taxpayers and little banks.

#32 Comment By Josh On July 18, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

“Food stamp use has increased 50% since 2009. Is that not enough? In understand the author’s point,but I agree wholeheartedly with slimming down that program overall.”

To what end? For what purpose?

It has increased in that way because the economy has been so much worse overall, with wages stagnant or even decreasing while prices stay the same or go up. People are underemployed in large numbers, and food stamps help meet that gap.

Republicans have obstructed one effort after another to help improve the economy, mostly because they understand that an improved economy would benefit the President, and that is one thing they cannot abide.

#33 Comment By david helveticka On July 19, 2013 @ 11:53 am

Johann sed: “So Gingrich and Bush are Libertarians? Really? You need to get out more. A libertarian government would not have bought off on the usual bankster extortion racket that the entire economy will collapse if they are not bailed out.”

In what utopian fantasy world would the sort of “libertarian government” exist? No, Glass-Steagall was really simple, separate commercial banking from investment banking from insurance, and let the INVESTMENT banks not bring down the whole economy.

The so-called “booms and busts” that you as a “libertarian” celebrate as the true “free market” were not very comfortable if you were a working stiff or a small investor or a farmer back in the 19th and early 20th Century. Perhaps you, like the communist utopians you mirror in mentality, would like rewrite history to jive with your utopian fantasies; but the reality for those of us in the real world tells a different story.

#34 Comment By Reinhold On July 21, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

“Can the GOP be pro-worker and anti-government?” No, I would say, absolutely no.

#35 Comment By Reinhold On July 22, 2013 @ 12:06 am

“That’s Libertarian Populism in a nutshell, looking out for businessman not the corporation.”
I’m really perplexed by this market/capitalism distinction the libertarian populists like to make. In which market does the businessman NOT try to expand into a corporation? I think the closest thing to a free market is the operation of the Neapolitan Camorra; the competition is very high-stakes and the innovation very frequent, and yet individual businessmen still tend to concentrate massive capital and wealth and come out on top over his underling employees, who can certainly make their way in the world if they can invest intelligently and kill their competitors viciously. And even in such an atmosphere, there are ‘corporations,’ clan affiliations, basically contracts and trusts of a sort; and these are susceptible to being broken by competition from below, but nonetheless are they huge monopolies, because the natural inclination of business is expansion, corporation, concentration, not subsistence, individuality, and decentralization.

#36 Comment By Banger On July 23, 2013 @ 9:34 am

For me we would all profit if both official political parties, since they have a monopoly on power, actually had consistent political philosophies that they stood for and articulated. They don’t–they have a mish-mash of platitudes specifically constructed to confuse people that are illogical, irrational and deliberately deceptive.

Democrats do not even remotely care for working people and Republicans certainly don’t care much for small business or farmers. Both parties of course take positions on culture war issues and both parties lovingly cultivate the power-elite and allow lobbyists to write legislation.

There is no place in American politics for honesty in government–certainly it was always under attack but there was once a time when it was possible to have honest politicians of both parties who made sure this country managed to survive and prosper. Today such a creature does not and cannot, under the system we operate under, exist.

#37 Comment By dean On July 24, 2013 @ 11:37 am

“Libertarian populists have their blind spots. They are still too fixated on tax rates that remain far from the Laffer Curve’s prohibitive range while neglecting the payroll taxes many working-class taxpayers watch consume their paychecks.”

–Really? I know lots of libertarians that want to end the middle class welfare programs of social security and medicare. End the payroll taxes, end the welfare, promote freedom!

#38 Comment By david helveticka On July 25, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

Farm Subsidies, like most things “libertarians” rankle about, is something that THEY created back in the Neuter Gingrich era’s so-called “Freedom to Farm” Act, which removed the government from regulating agricultural commodities. As everyone but righteous ideologues understand, commodities—especially agricultural commodities–follow a boom and bust cycle. When you had good weather, you had a good crop, and if it was a really good crop, prices would fall below the cost of production, and farmers would face going BUST literally.

And sure as rain comes and goes, prices finally fell below the cost of production, and rather then LOSE 1/2 of our farm production, congress bailed out the catastrophe caused by the FTFA, and put in direct subsidies.

As direct subsidies took effect, farmers put more and more land into production, as subsidies made putting marginal land into production profitable. The more you planted, the bigger your subsidy.

Of course, the winner was AGRIBUSINESS, who now had government subsidized corn and soybeans to make corn syrup which is now in almost ALL American fast food, cheap soy and corn subsidized the feed lot industry, and we have cheap beef, pork and chicken which subsidizes more Fast Food, which makes Americans sick, which increases medical costs, and so on.

That’s how “libertarian populism” works…create resentment among the rubes about “freedom”, and it ends up as a huge government boondoggle. Banks and now fast food…is this supposed to be how “freedom” works?