Brian Darling

Tea Party-minded Congressmen and ideological leftists tend to agree that corporate welfare is bad. Hence, conservatives and liberals recently teamed up to oppose adding $40 billion in loan authority to that bastion of crony capitalism, the Export-Import Bank. Unfortunately, the establishment types in both parties combined to push the extra spoils for Ex-Im through to passage.

Now an even bigger corporate welfare bill – the Farm Bill—is moving through Congress, and it’s garnering even broader support.

Every five years, the House and Senate take up a farm bill. The House is still working up details on its version. S.3240, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is pending in the Senate. The comically misnamed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act is terrible.

Stabenow’s bill would dole out subsidies—most of them lasting five years—to numerous slivers of the agriculture sector. It enjoys strong bipartisan support because the plethora of subsidies spews big money into large swaths of the country. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates this bill will cost taxpayers $969 billion over the next 10 years.

The CBO report goes on to say that the bill will actually save taxpayers $24 billion. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The CBO is required to use base its analysis on current—severely bloated—federal spending assumptions. Not only that, but Stabenow’s cuts are offset by a new “shallow loss” program that could easily end up costing more than the proposed “cuts” save. As Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) observes, Stabenow’s bill actually constitutes a massive increase in spending over the 2008 Farm Bill.

“The 2008 Farm Bill was estimated to spend $604.1 billion over 10 years, as calculated by the Congressional Budget Office,” DeMint notes. “The 2012 Farm Bill is estimated to spend $969.2 billion over the next 10 years. That’s a whopping 60 percent increase!”


Brian Darling

Brian Darling is a Senior Fellow in Government Studies at the Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @BrianHDarling