So God Made a Farm Bill
A famous speech about those who toil in the fields gets an update
And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, and then go to Washington and claim that this particular type of hard work is somehow unique in America and ought to be underwritten by the rest of the nation. I need a willing audience for that plea—a group clever enough and self-serving enough to see the electoral profit of standing for Carhartts, wheat fields and John Deere tractors.” So God made a Congress.
He said, “I need somebody in that Congress savvy enough to realize that farming means food, and food means nutrition, and nutrition means good things to voters, so farming means food stamps. Somebody to call to make that assistance bigger and forever, tame howls over soaring deficits, and plant the seeds of perpetual votes. Somebody to threaten to label anybody pushing for reform as rich, cruel and downright hateful of happy, cornfed children playing in hay lofts—and mean it.” So God made a Democratic Party.
God said, “I need somebody willing to spend five long years complaining about overspending, big government and special-interest giveaways. And get up and vote for $1 trillion in overspending, bigger government and special-interest giveaways—in the name of farmers. Then—when reminded of his reform promises—dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody to fret about drought, wax about food security, and muse (in private) that heedless government shutdowns really do have consequences. Including pressuring parties to prove they can accomplish something by voting for 949-page spending extravaganzas that nobody has bothered to read. Somebody willing to put in 40 hours spinning excuses for abandoning his principles and then, pained from the camera lights, put in 70 hours more.” So God made Republicans.
God had to have Democrats and Republicans willing to cast aside their differences in the name of handouts, and bale a legislative vehicle together with the strong bonds of self-interest. A vehicle that would combine food stamps and farm pork and thereby guarantee a coalition so powerful that it could mow over procedural ruts, race ahead of political rain and hogtie pesky opponents. A vehicle so unstoppable that its creators would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when the reformers vowed change: “Good luck, suckers.” So God made a farm bill.
God said: “I need somebody mighty enough to divert money to those who need it least, yet sneaky enough to do it behind closed doors. I need somebody to wheedle, deal, logroll, beg, trade, and cajole subsidy checks for corporate agribusiness, sushi rice, catfish, Christmas-tree promotion boards, biorefineries and at least 15 sitting members of Congress. Somebody to make sure there are no caps on subsidies and no asset tests for food stamps. Somebody in a nice suit. Somebody who has never been on a farm.” So God made lobbyists.
He said, “I need somebody or something to help patriotic Americans forget that 80% of that ‘farm’ bill is going to welfare, and most of the rest to sugar barons and cotton kings who vacation in Mallorca. Somebody or something to ensure people don’t get to wondering why it is we have a ‘farm’ bill when we don’t have a ‘laptop’ bill, or a ‘vampire-novel’ bill or a ‘swing-set’ bill in this free-market economy that Americans supposedly prize. Somebody or something who will so inspire the public with homespun images of clapboard churches and cows, leathery men holding rope, sheepdogs, plaid shirts, cowboy hats, and American flags that folks will entirely fail to realize that the people pictured—the hardworking souls tilling the back 40—are these days the last to see a dime of farm-bill money.” So God made Ram pickup trucks and Super Bowl commercials.
Finally, God looked down on all he’d created and He said: “Now I need somebody who really will work hard. Somebody who’ll get up day in and day out to plow through traffic to work, come home to help the kids and make the dinner and do the laundry, and struggle with the bills, and get up to do it all over again.
“Somebody who will limit himself to dreaming about that Ram pickup truck he can’t afford—because the IRS bill is due, and because the government-inflated cost of groceries and gas sure do make things tight, and because his own small business, which he built with his own sweat, doesn’t qualify for any handouts. I need somebody to spend his life paying for this week’s farm extravaganza, somebody who Congress made sure had no damn choice in the matter.”
So God made a taxpayer.