On September 8th Congress voted for relief for Americans impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Several callous members voted no, citing their conservative ideology, even though they’ve embraced federal dollars flowing to their districts before. As the Kansas City Star editorial board noted when raining hot fire on their local nays:
“And the hypocrisy. Let us count the ways.”
At some point every part of the country experiences disaster. And when that happens taxpayers are there to help. We’re in this together.
The gross hypocrisy of denying government help for others while shoveling federal cash to favored constituencies is even starker in corn country. It’s populated by “corn”servative legislators who love funneling tax dollars to their agriculture interests while bemoaning government subsidized health care as a socialist menace.
Take Iowa Republican Steve King. He called his no vote on Hurricane Katrina relief his best moment in Congress. But when bird flu decimated the egg and poultry industry in his district, King welcomed the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal indemnity program payments that rebuilt his producers’ flocks. He even had the gall to work his colleagues on a failed effort to set up a permanent federally subsidized avian flu insurance program.
It’s conventional wisdom that King is a moronic, racist hack with a surgically removed shame center. So he gets a pass for being a collective-minded socialist when it comes to farm programs. And for the members who voted no for Harvey aid, well the news coverage moved on to Trump’s latest rake step, and this particular brand of congressional hypocrisy has become another rote ritual of Washington DC.
But what if there are members of Congress who themselves have personally taken disaster aid checks from Uncle Sam? What if these same members returned the favor to hard working American taxpayers by refusing them help in times of great need? That would be pretty bad, right?
Well look no further than these three members who voted no for Harvey relief after personally receiving agriculture-related disaster aid.
- Representative Kristi Noem’s (R-SD) farm received $380, 866 in federal disaster payments. (number based on reports her ownership share ended in 2008)
- Representative Vicky Hartzler’s (R-MO) farm received $196, 977 in federal disaster payments.
- Representative Mac Thornberry’s (R-TX) farm received $73,894 in federal disaster payments.
Hypocrite is far too soft a word for these craven members of Congress.
Prior to the 2008 farm bill, ad hoc disaster bills were the major delivery streams of federal assistance for American farmers hit by weather related disaster. And after passage of the 2014 farm bill, federally subsidized crop insurance became a permanent disaster program.
Aside from costing taxpayers billions more and encouraging risky agriculture practices, crop insurance subsidies delivered another benefit to producers and landowners receiving farm welfare – secrecy.
Unlike other subsidies – like ad hoc disaster payments – the identities of recipients and the amounts paid to crop insurance recipients are protected under congressional law. So we can’t know if members like the ones above and likely many others are directly benefiting from tax dollars they vote on.
And when some principled members of Congress believed their colleagues’ federal crop insurance payments should be public, mysteriously, “somewhere on the way through the conference committee, this provision was dropped.”
Hypocrite is far too soft a word.