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Tea Parties and Farm Subsidies

By Matthew Yglesias on May 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm

"Tea Parties and Farm Subsidies"

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Man and woman with stern expession stand side-by-side. The man hold a pitch fork

It would be nice to think that the Tea Partying and “anti-spending” mania sweeping the country might lead to renewed pressure to rethink farm subsidies, but as Donald Carr points out it doesn’t seem to be happening:

But right now, there seem to be plenty of Tea Party-favored candidates who willingly collect government assistance in the form of farm subsidies. In early April, the Washington Post reported that Stephen Fincher, a Tea Party Senate candidate from Tennessee, was facing criticism over his acceptance of farm subsidy payments, as is Indiana Senate candidate Marlin Stutzman. Michele Bachmann’s farm subsidies have opened her up to charges of hypocrisy for her limited government stands.

The situation is similar with members who flaunt their success at steering government money to their home states and districts. In March, at the height of the heath care debate, nine Republican senators sent President Obama a letter decrying his proposed cuts to lavish farm subsidy programs. The senators who signed the letter were Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), senior Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Pat Roberts (Kan.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), John Thune (S.D.), James Risch (Idaho), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and David Vitter (La).

As I’ve been saying, I think it’s necessary to get past the idea of pointing out “hypocrisy” here. It’s kind of like if a conservative was to say liberals say they like social justice, but really they favor policies that are wrong. “Social justice” is just a phrase, a slogan, something progressives like to talk about, but it doesn’t have any particular content. Similarly, for Tea Partiers “big government” means “stuff we don’t like” it’s not a governing agenda. It’s very common for countries to feature an urban-rural political cleavage. In some instances, the rural areas are more leftwing than the urban areas. But in places like the US where rural areas are more conservative, supporting rural interests is just constitutive of conservative ideology. It’s mistaken, but it’s not really hypocrisy.

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