Debra J. Saunders

Watch how the new Democratic Congress packs pork into this year's federal Farm Bill. You'd think that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are trying to make George W. Bush look good. The Democrats had told America that if they won power, they would end the GOP's unconscionable spending bonanza. Now the Dems are wallowing in other people's money.

In July, the House passed a pork-laden $280 billion five-year Farm Bill. Now, the Senate is poised to pass a $288 billion Farm Bill that hands billions of taxpayer dollars -- your money -- to agribusiness.

It doesn't matter that farm incomes are at an all-time high. The Senate Farm Bill mandates $42 billion in subsidies for five crops (corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat). It sets aside $26 billion in "direct payments" to farmers or people who once farmed land. As The San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead has so ably reported, 10 percent of beneficiaries will receive 60 percent of direct-payment funds. Dead people have received checks. According to Time magazine, Uncle Sam has given Farm Bill money to 1,324 residents of New York City.

So why would Congress pass such an outrageous bill? Because it can.

And clearly Democratic leaders, as the GOP biggies before them, have decided that they are more likely to hang onto power if they give your money to Big Ag. They fear those farm interests far more than they fear the wrath of informed voters.

You've heard this song before. In 2002, Bush made the mistake of signing a pork-fest of a farm bill put together by free-spending Republicans.

Now, however, the Bush administration has seen the light. As Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner told reporters Monday, "The fundamental flaw with the 2002 bill is it pays farmers the most when they need it the least; it doesn't pay them very much at all when they've had a crop disaster." Conner objected to the fundamental unfairness of the Senate's bid to raise taxes on other sectors of the economy, so that more tax dollars can be thrown at "millionaires living on Park Avenue."

Speaker Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, promises reform in the next Farm Bill. Ha. Methinks that if Democrats can't cut corporate welfare in the very year in which they promised to deliver big reforms, they never will. In five years, Pelosi simply will have honed the bad habits that the powerful develop to strengthen their chokehold on power inside the Beltway.

Debra J. Saunders

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