Was I the only one underwhelmed by Brett Baier’s interviews for Fox News of ‘typical’ Iowa voters? http://video.foxnews.com/v/1032979027001 He interviewed three people – and two of them just happen to be dependent on government funding. If that’s typical of Iowa’s population, then Republican presidential candidates will have tough sledding in the Iowa caucuses if they promote an agenda that radically reduces federal spending and indebtedness.
One of the interviewees was a well-dressed young mother living a spacious home with her husband and children. She’s a ‘director of community education’ for her school district. My reaction was: huh?
Her top issue? Education. No surprise there, not only does she have two school-age daughters, but it’s her paycheck issue too.
It would have been great if Baier had asked her what she actually did for a living (I suspect it involves dealing with, ahem, ‘stakeholders’), and if by ‘top issue’ she meant that the government should spend more money on education. But it was softball day for Baier – including his trip from the ‘burbs to the farm.
Baier had a chat with the dour Bill Couser, half-owner of Couser Cattle Company of Nevada, Iowa, and part-owner of Lincoln Way Energy. Couser made the astounding claim (unchallenged by Baier) that Washington’s cuts in ethanol subsidies were making him and others in the ethanol business feel like Vietnam vets when they were coming home to America. That’s right – Couser and his colleagues are being abused by those who have the temerity to reduce subsidies for his business sector. (A case of Post-Traumatic-Subsidy-Disorder?)
Having been to many rural coffee shops, I can tell you that this is exactly the sort of self-righteous chatter you will hear, how a particular farm group has a right to subsidies paid for by you and me … or with money borrowed from China.
If Baier had done his homework at the Environmental Working Group’s website http://farm.ewg.org/ , he would have found that from 1995 through 2006, Couser received $745,035 in federal agriculture subsidy payments, and from 2006 through 2010 his Couser Cattle Company received $197,718 in such payments. Add to that an ethanol subsidy system that keeps corn prices artificially high, and, as any Delaware poultry farmer will tell you, results in higher prices and tighter margins for chicken.
It’s something to consider the next time you grab a chicken filet sandwich for lunch. If there’s less change in your pocket than before, you can take comfort in your indirect support for renewable energy, I guess.
A side lesson from Baier’s Iowa softball session is that fiscal conservatives still have a lot of work to do to convince folks in the heartland that federal spending must be reduced. Guys like Causer are probably betting that in the end, Republican tough talk on agriculture spending will repeat the sorry record of the 1996 Republican ‘Freedom to Farm’ subsidy overhaul. While the 1996 law reduced subsidies, almost immediately the reductions were offset by ‘emergency’ farm payments, which were later made permanent in the 2002 farm law. Not exactly a hopeful sign if you’re on the side of reduced government spending.
There’s plenty of time until next year’s Iowa caucuses. Will another reporter take up the challenge to ask some tough questions of those in the Hawkeye State who get government payments? I hope so. Let’s leave the softballs at the playground, please.