Deficit Doves

Posted: Jun 25, 2012 12:01 AM

Every Democrat on Capitol Hill professes to be a fiscal hawk.  Getting the deficit under control, balancing the budget, reducing the debt…they all pontificate the right words…particularly in front of the cameras or on the campaign circuit.  But, they never seem to find the will to vote for anything that will actually move the nation even a little bit in that direction.

Take for example the current Senate debate on the farm bill.  If you think a variety of subsidy and support programs for various agriculture commodities comprise the majority of the bill, you guessed wrong.  Most of the spending is for food stamps and various welfare programs administered through the Department of Agriculture.  In fact, over the next decade the food stamp program is expected to cost $770 billion – yes, about the same size as the Obama Stimulus – and devour 78% of the entire spending of the farm bill, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The program originally designed to aid 1-in-50 is being used by 1-in-7. 

On June 19, the Senate considered some reforms that would have trimmed a mere $20 billion, barely 2 percent, from the food stamp program over 10 years.  Every Democrat except one and spattering of Republicans voted "No".

And, these are the people who are going to get our fiscal house in order?  Balance $1 trillion-plus annual deficits? 

Following are excerpts from the Wall Street Journal's editorial, "Food Stamp Fiasco."  Mother Nature doesn't let doves get away with pretending to be hawks – neither should voters. 

"The next time someone moans about Washington "austerity," tell them about the Senate's food stamp votes on Tuesday. Democrats and a few Republicans united to block even modest reform in a welfare program that has exploded in the last decade and is set to spend $770 billion in the next 10 years."...

"A record 44.7 million people received food stamps in fiscal 2011, up from 28.2 million as recently as 2008. The cost has more than doubled in that same period, to $78 billion, and is on track to account for 78% of farm bill spending over the next decade. One in seven Americans now qualifies."...

"Enter Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, who proposed reforms to limit the worst excesses. One proposal would have established a federal asset test to ensure that food stamps aren't going to families that may not have an income but have tens of thousands of dollars in savings or may even live in a million-dollar home. Some 39 states have no real asset test for food stamps, which means wealthy families without anyone in the job market are eligible, and 27 have gross-income limits that are above 130% of the federal poverty guidelines."

"That amendment lost 56-43, with every Democrat except Missouri's Claire McCaskill opposing it. New England Republicans Scott Brown, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Nevada's Dean Heller joined the antireformers."

"Mr. Sessions also tried to end the preposterous federal policy of paying some $500 million in bonuses to states that sign up more people for food stamps. This is the way government becomes a permanent feedback loop promoting even bigger government. That amendment lost 58-41, with every self-described Democratic 'deficit hawk' opposed."  Entire editorial here.