Paul Greenberg

LITTLE ROCK -- Only one of this farm state's U.S. representatives voted against this year's swollen ($100 billion a year) farm bill? Naturally, it would be Tom Cotton.

Other congressmen talk a good game about the need to cut out the waste in an out-of-control federal budget that continues to mortgage the country's future -- and take from future generations by saddling them with more and more government debt. But this Tom Cotton acts. And, as in this case, votes.

He's always been that way. He left a prestigious federal court clerkship to join the Army, where he went through both Airborne and Ranger training before two tours of duty in the Iraq/Afghanistan killing fields. While there, Capt. Cotton earned a Bronze Star, among other commendations, and the respect of the troopers he took on daily -- or nightly -- combat patrols.

How rare, though not unknown: a congressman who acts on his patriotic convictions, and doesn't just mouth them. Even as a Harvard undergraduate, the boy from Dardanelle, Ark., was writing columns in the Crimson defending conservative values, an act of derring-do in those frigid latitudes that should have earned him combat pay long before he was eligible for the real thing. He's got True Grit, like Mattie Ross of Buddy Portis' fine and not entirely fictional novel. She, too, came from "Yell County, near Dardanelle," as she was always proud to say. Maybe it's something in the water up around there.

Whatever it is, Capt. Cotton stands by his guns, and not just figuratively. As he did on this issue, outvoted but not outfought. And he could scarcely have found a worse example of Washington's pork-barrel, log-rolling, deficit-enhancing ways to vote against than this year's atrocious-as-usual farm bill. This thing's got so much pork in it, you can almost hear it squeal.

If there was a special interest in the whole, sprawling, grasping farm- industrial complex now known as Agribusiness that didn't get its cut, it got it by some other name. For example, the feds' command-and-control system that keeps the price of milk and other dairy products artificially high is now called insurance, but that doesn't make it any easier for poor families to afford milk. Those direct handouts in the millions to planters, whether they actually plant a crop or not, are still there -- but they're called Crop Insurance.

There's no surer sign than this rotating crop of euphemisms that something fishy is going on in government. And in the government-subsidized industry that American "farming" has become.

Even the Obama administration's tax on Christmas, specifically Christmas trees, is still there in this latest farm bill, but be sure to call it a Promotion Program.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.