Yesterday's New York Times carried a story on what it termed one of "the audacious proposals" in President Obama's budget – a plan to cut farm subsidies that would save nearly $10 billion over a decade. Unfortunately, the plan set off "a huge alarm in the powerful farm lobby." Among those clanging the loudest "No!" were Mr. Obama's fellow Democrats in farm states, such as Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Rep. John M. Spratt, Jr. of South Carolina.
Mr. Obama's vision of new politics, outlined in The Audacity of Hope, has once again collided with the realities of old politics, where vested interests plow under efforts to weed out government spending programs that most people agree have outgrown the fences. There are certainly elements of merit in Mr. Obama's plan, but even farm subsidy critics agree this was an overreach.
The Times article further noted that in this Congress "farm subsidy limits never got off the ground." I'd prefer another description: the farm lobby planted them so deeply they'll never see the sunlight needed for them to sprout. It just goes to show that everybody wants reform, but don't touch their sacred cow. Or corn. Or beans. Or wheat. Or whatever. It's a variation of NIMBY – everyone says we need more drug treatment facilities, or homeless shelters or power grids – just Not In My Backyard. There will be more such collisions. When it comes to budget reform, everyone agrees, sacrifices are critical, but NAME – Not At My Expense.
Full disclosure: my mother's cousins and the family of an ad industry friend both run dairy farms.