Opinion

No Wall, No Farm Bill

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Posted: Dec 20, 2018 12:01 AM
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No Wall, No Farm Bill

Before President Donald J. Trump waves the white flag in his shutdown showdown with congressional Democrats, he should make one more move.

No wall, no Farm Bill.

President Trump is expected on Thursday to sign this 10-year, $867 billion agro-monstrosity. He shouldn’t.

The 801-page Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 is clogged with unforgivable items, not least a broader definition of who qualifies for farm subsidies. Cousins, nieces, and nephews of farmers now can get agro-goodies, provided they drop by at least once a month.

“This is the first Farm Bill since 2002 not to tighten the means test for millionaire farmers,” laments Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “The final text continues to allow farmers who earn up to $1.8 million to receive taxpayer subsidies.”

This Farm Bill contains brand new subsidies for hops and barley. Somehow, American brewers managed to support American hops and barley farmers since 1776. Why the sudden need for taxpayer help? 

And hops subsidies? Really? These days, too many beers (yes, there is such a thing) contain an almost painfully high quantity of hops. This strongly suggests that hops farmers are having zero difficulty selling their crops. Maybe Uncle Sam should pay them to grow fewer hops, so craft beers would become a bit less bitter and tongue-curling.

This bill legalizes hemp production. Good. It also subsidizes hemp production. Not good.

Also, these subsidies will frustrate U.S. trade negotiations. Why should Europe and China reduce their farm and corporate supports if America is piling them on? President Trump sounded like Milton Friedman when he proposed radical free trade to his fellow heads of state at last June’s G-7 summit: “You want no barriers. And you want no subsidies,” he said. “Because you have some cases where countries are subsidizing industries, and that’s not fair.”

This is a visionary, truly free-market approach to trade. Alas, the farm bill marches 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

Even worse, the Farm Bill also weakens Clinton-era work requirements for Food Stamp recipients. This welfare un-reformputs Republicans to the Left of William Jefferson Clinton. There is no reason that the GOP should have gone along with this Democrat demand — especially in exchange for...nothing. As usual, Republican horse traders have swapped a thoroughbred for a jackass.

Club for Growth president David McIntosh summarizes this entire Farm Bill fiasco all too well: “This is nothing less than socialism with a Republican seal of approval on it.”

President Trump should veto this national embarrassment on principle and rally Republicans to uphold his veto. Barring that scenario, however, there is one way that he could turn this policy calamity into a partial victory:

President Trump should announce that he will veto the Farm Bill, along with the Food Stamp/non-work giveaway to Democrats, unless they immediately vote for his $5 billion request for border-wall funds. The wall money comes first; Farm Bill approval comes second. The president and the GOP should trust the Democrats no farther than they could throw a 200-acre soybean farm.

This will give the president and his supporters what they want and America needs: his signature border wall. Democrats will get what they want: more welfare without those pesky work rules. Everybody will walk away with something.

The main thing is for the president NOT to sign the Farm Bill any time soon. He can use it as leverage — so long as it remains unsigned.

If Democrats insist on welfare without work, then President Trump and the GOP should insist that they pay for it by approving $5 billion for the wall. That is hardball, and exactly what the conservative base expects of the president and the Republican Party.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for a continuing resolution through February 8 is a fool’s errand. In case McConnell missed the memo, the House will fall under the control of Nancy Pelosi and her far-Left Democrat majority on January 3. Next year, Pelosi must manage her caucus’s lust to impeach Trump; she will have little time, and even less interest, to hand Trump a victory on his chief priority, especially since a no-borders policy steadily supplies what Democrats reasonably consider their future voters. President Trump would squeeze champagne from a cinderblock sooner than he would get border-wall funds from the Nancy Pelosi/Maxine Waters/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez House of Representatives.

If a GOP White House and Congress cannot finance this border wall, arguably Donald J. Trump’s biggest promise, what’s the point in voting Republican? At a bare minimum, the GOP Congress should stay in Washington until January 3 and continue to vote on wall-funding measures. And Republicans should make Democrats vote on these proposals, not simply skin up their noses and walk away, without so much as saying Yea or Nay.

From this putrid farm bill to ever-elusive wall funds, the long-term lesson for Republican leaders is simple: Stop humiliating the conservative base.

Deroy Murdock is a New York-based Fox News contributor, a contributing editor with National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.