The Obama campaign is working overtime in trying to find talking points to attack Mitt Romney's new VP pick, Rep. Paul Ryan. As the president kicks off his own tour of key battleground states today, he reportedly plans to blame Ryan for the administration's stalled farm bill. "He's one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way," Obama will say today in Iowa in reference to members of Congress who are blocking the farm bill.
So why might a Chicago Democrat be in favor of a farm bill, yet a rural Wisconsin Republican stand opposed to it?
Obama's farm bill -- conveniently named the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act -- funnels taxpayer dollars toward people and pet programs Democrats favor, many of which have nothing to do with farming. The bill is bloated with new spending. Its CBO-estimated $969 billion price tag represents an astounding 40% spending hike since the 2008 farm bill. To add injury to insult, more than $750 billion of this spending is slated to grow the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- a.k.a., food stamps. And unlike Barack Obama, Paul Ryan understands that money doesn't grow on trees.
In addition, the current farm bill represents exactly the kind of "crony capitalism" Ryan spoke of over the weekend:
The legislation includes direct handouts and loan guarantees for advanced biofuels and bio-refineries, renewable chemicals, and bio-based product manufacturers. It also reauthorizes the Rural Energy for America Program, which “provides grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. It also provides funds to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.” In other words, more wasteful green subsidies.
Also included in the bill are the Biomass Research and Development Initiative and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). BCAP is a handout to farmers and ranchers who produce biomass for heat, power, bio-based products, or biofuels.
The Heritage Foundation notes that where there's no market, all the government subsidies in the world do no good. That's how capitalism works, after all:
Good economic ideas overcome the chicken-and-egg program all the time without government assistance. It doesn’t matter how many cell phones you have if there’s no place to obtain a signal. But producers built cell phone towers and sold cell phones without a massive subsidy from Washington. The same can happen with biofuels if it’s an economically viable idea.
All of these handouts are wasteful and unnecessary. We have a robust, diverse energy market that can supply consumers with affordable and reliable energy without the taxpayers’ help. The subsidies are also a product of trying to bail out another disastrous policy: the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels (21 billion gallons of that being non-cornstarch) by 2022.
But citing the punishing droughts plaguing the Midwest this summer, Obama plans to criticize Ryan for opposing the measure.
"The best way to help these states is for leaders in Congress to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters, but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some long-term certainty," Obama plans to say today in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "But right now, too many members of Congress are blocking that bill from becoming law. Now, I'm told Governor Romney's new running mate might be around Iowa these next few days. And he's one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. It's time to put politics aside and pass it right away."
Ryan will also be stumping today in Iowa with a visit to the state fair.