Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Was Tiahrt right to vote against the farm bill?

Tiahrt advertises himself as a fiscal conservative and a champion of the American people, not just corporate executives but farmers as well. For the sake of the American farmer Tiahrt said he was justified in voting against the farm bill of 2008.

Tiahrt would like to claim a past voting record where he has aided farmers. For instance, he brags about getting funding for an ethanol plant (he uses this as a sign he's pro-environment), and he says how great it is that crops are turned into ethanol and we should develop more ethanol to get off of foreign oil. However, he had voted against a measure to develop more ethanol. Tiahrt's career is often like this, he'll claim to support something for the people then vote against those interests, like when he voted to outsource tanker jobs from Wichita to France.

So what did this farm bill do that Tiahrt objected to? He claims the bill cuts crop insurance by $6 billion, and cuts $300 million in subsidies to farmers. The bill was $18 billion larger than the last one and it included earmarks for the salmon industry in California.

Okay, that's the reason Tiahrt gave. So let's see if he is justified and let's look at the real reasons he voted against the farm bill.

First, the salmon program. The salmon industry in California and up the river in Oregon and Washington is suffering. The salmon is nearly extinct in that region and the fish provide thousands of jobs. People in that region harvest fish like people harvest wheat in Kansas. It's essentially a farming job as it produces food for the people. Tiahrt, being such a champion of farmers should support that. In fact, the reason the salmon industry is suffering is because of a Republican decision to divert water from the salmon streams to agriculture. Unlike a bad year for apples should the salmon go bad one year there may not be any left the next year, that's why it's called extinction. The reason to kill off the salmon was chartered by Karl Rove, merely for political reasons to get votes for a Republican candidate, the earmark is needed to correct the mistakes made by the Republicans. So Tiahrt's party is to blame for the cost, not Pelosi.

Did you notice Tiahrt didn't complain about the earmark that gives tax breaks to breeders of thoroughbred horses? It's probably because Senate Minority Leader and Republican Mitch McConnell asked for it. I eat salmon, not horses. Makes you wonder what Burger King is serving in Kentucky.

Tiahrt's criticism of the crop insurance plan is odd since it is a slight improvement over the previous version. Mark Bohner from the Iowa Farm Bureau praises the new standard, "I think our biggest safety net that our farmers have is the federal crop insurance and I think that's probably one thing that we wanted to make sure that got kept in the farm bill."

The insurance program does shift more cost for insurance from the taxpayer to the farmer but when it came to children's health care Tiahrt was in favor of kids paying for their own insurance, not the taxpayer. So I don't know where Tiahrt is going with this, is he now advocating socialized insurance? But perhaps Tiahrt is failing to notice that crop insurance coverage was expanded to cover commodities that hadn't previously been covered. So under the new rules farmers can actually get insurance where they previously had none. Also, billions is being set aside for full disaster relief so even uninsured farmers will get covered in the case of a federally declared disaster. Previously it a farmer lost his crop and his home only those commodities covered would get relief but the farmer would still be homeless, the new bill covers the entire farm. I'd call that taking care of the farmer as opposed to just the crop.

Now for the subsidies. True, subsidies were cut, but only to corporate farms and those making millions of dollars. Under the old policy if a farmer made $2.5 million or more they'd still receive a crop subsidy. Subsidies are intended to help out struggling farmers, not rich corporations. Here we see where Tiahrt's interests truly lie. Agribusiness is a huge donor to the Tiahrt campaign and he's working to protect those subsidies like he did for the oil companies. The new bill limits subsidies to single farmers who make less than $750,000, and cuts subsidies to corporations that hide ownership of farms help under shell corporations.

Now here's other things Tiahrt hates about the bill but doesn't want to mention because they are popular programs. Funding for organic research and education is increased to $78 million. Also, much of the funding goes towards aid for the poor in the form of food assistance. Tiahrt claims to be a champion of the family but turns a blind eye to those starving (and I thought he just didn't want poor children to have health care).

So we see the real reason why Tiahrt voted against the bill. As usual he was just protecting the interests of corporations and the rich while the poor and middle class in America are ignored when they have to cope with rising food prices.

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