Policy: Entitlements

The farm bill: Left and Right on one side; special interests and the mainstream media on the other

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Timothy P. Carney,MSNBC,Entitlements,Farm Bill,Minusextra,Media

When you hear politicians and media types crowing about bipartisan cooperation and compromise, the odds are good that bad laws are being made, ripping off regular people and enriching the special interests.

The farm bill's passage through the House is "the latest sign that Congress has rediscovered its ability to get things done," writes Molly Ball at the Atlantic. Ball gets that there are problems with the bill from a policy perspective, but if you were playing "No Labels Bingo" on this article, your card would be full in the first couple hundred words:

get things done ... bipartisan ... compromise ... reforms ... stark contrast to the two-year saga of delay and partisan conflict ... ignored the outside groups' caterwauling and threats ...

Too much disagreement and rancor remain to call this a new dawn for Congress. But the evidence is mounting that things are getting better.

Ball deserves credit for being very open about her bias, which is the bias most of the major mainstream media holds without realizing it's a bias: preferring the status quo, desiring compromise among competing special interests, willingness to discard principle and exaltation of the bipartisan.

If you can please the various industry lobbies jockeying over the bill, it's a victory, in this MSM worldview.

So when some Republicans stand up to the special interests seeking federal handouts in their district, Ball sees it as perfidy by "the small group of conservative obstructionists." Ball writes, "Now the GOP, hamstrung by its right wing's anti-government zeal, risks breaking faith with its rural stronghold."

Again, kudos to Ball using such stark language to signal that she takes sides in this fight.

I've got my own leanings in these sorts of fights, and so what she calls the "right wing's anti-government zeal" I might call "a newfound consistency in living up its limited-government principles." What Ball calls "breaking faith with its rural stronghold," I might call "finally standing up to a special-interest lobby."

How to adjudicate between Ball's conviction that passing this raft of farm subsidies is great and my feeling that the current farm bill should quashed? If we step outside of my "anti-government zeal" on the one hand, and Ball's pro-center, pro-interest group, pro-compromise ideology, we can turn to outside analysts who don't stand to get rich off the bill.

Here's the left-leaning Environmental Working Group's "Top Six Reasons EWG Opposes The Farm Bill," including that it "may increase farm subsidies," "rejects reasonable subsidy limits," "increases insurance subsidies," "cuts nutrition assistance," "cuts conservation funding" and "rejects transparency"

The free-market-favoring R Street Group is "deeply disappointed by $1 trillion farm bill." At US News, you see experts from the National Taxpayers Union and the Center for American Progress saying Congress should kill the bill, while the vested interests favor it.

Ball and much of the MSM have their test for good policy: Do the most-interested parties approve? Is it bipartisan?

Allow me to suggest that sometimes, an affirmative answer to those two questions might be a good sign of bad policy.

p.s. Here is liberal MSNBC host Chris Hayes on the bill's deliberate lack of transparency.

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