News of the intellectual demise of the Republican Party comes almost daily. In its coverage of the bipartisan vote in favor of the farm bill (which overrode a well-deserved Bush veto) the Washington Post included this reaction:
"If I was a farm-belt guy, I would be all over my district now, saying, 'I stood with you, not the party of the president,' said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who wrote to GOP leaders last week, urging them to defy Bush or at least allow rank-and-file members to save themselves. 'Anytime you can separate yourself from someone with a 28 percent favorability rating, that's a good thing.' "
As Davis noted, he's not a farm-belt guy. So one would think that he would want to stand up for the taxpayers in his suburban district and against the massive $300 billion grab by well-off farm businesses.
Indeed, Davis is retiring from Congress this year, so one would think that he would want to stand up for the general national interest for a change, rather than defending special interests and pushing his party's advantage (as he sees it), as he often has during 14 years in the House.
Sadly, it's all about politics for such legislators. The idea that members of Congress should promote policies to improve economic growth, increase individual freedom, and reform failed programs is completely foreign to them.
One can imagine that a conversation between Rep. Davis and an agricultural economist would go something like this:
Economist: The huge subsidies in this farm bill will distort markets, damage the economy, hurt the environment, and strain our international trade relationships.
Economist: The agricultural industry is the most coddled in America, with dozens of programs subsidizing every aspect of the farm business. Why should this industry be specially favored by the government?
Economist: Farm households have higher incomes than other American families. Farm incomes have risen rapidly in recent years, and farm prices are at record highs. Now should be the time to cut subsidies, not expand them.
Tom: I don't follow.
Economist: Alas, I see that the farm lobby organized a massive campaign in favor of the farm bill, and they have bombarded Capitol Hill with propaganda, while twisting the arms of your colleagues.
Tom: Now I got ya! That's right, us Republicans need to respond to the concerns of these hard-pressed farmers and help them out in rough times!
Economist: But, as I said, these are good times for farmers . . .
Tom: Yes, yes, yes, we need to pass this bill and guarantee good times for the farmers--and, God willing, good times for GOP candidates this fall.