This past week, the House brought up, amended, and considered the Farm Bill. For the uninitiated, the Farm Bill is the common name for the piece of legislation that reauthorizes five years worth of farm insurance programs as well as food stamps. It surprises many to learn that only about twenty percent of the bill actually has anything to do with farm programs. The other eighty percent is food stamps. So when you consider the full price tag of the bill, at just shy of a trillion dollars over ten years, it shows just how big the nation's expenditures are on "nutrition assistance". The Farm Bill that was considered this week was controversial for a number of reasons. Chief among them, this Farm Bill put in place the first reforms to the food stamp programs in almost twenty years. It tightened eligibility requirements by including things like an income and asset test. It took steps to ensure that the same people weren't collecting food stamps from multiple states simultaneously. And in one particularly controversial amendment, the House added a provision requiring recipients of food stamps to provide the same basic kind of documentation that people collecting unemployment do that they are actively looking for a job. In the end, the Farm Bill was defeated. A bipartisan group voting for it and a bipartisan group voting against it.
From my perspective, the failure of the bill mean two things. It continues the uncertainty for family farms and it means that there will be zero reforms to food stamps. The issues I mentioned above will continue. That doesn't make much sense to me, but that's where we are. In other news, I promised that I would give you some more background on possible U.S. intervention in Syria. It came out ten days ago or so that the White House believes it now has conclusive evidence that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people. President Obama had previously drawn a line in the sand saying that if the regime did that, it would "change his calculus" about the situation. Indeed it has and the President is now advocating for sending military aid to the rebels. I'm opposed to that. We don't have a clear picture of who these people are, and to the extent we do, we know that there are terrorist affiliates and sympathizers amongst the rebels. Giving them weapons that are capable of shooting down sophisticated aircraft is dangerous and unwise, in my opinion. At best, we are risking arming our enemies in future conflicts (as we've done repeatedly in the past) and at worst, we are risking American lives that will draw us in to yet another conflict in the Middle East. That is unacceptable to me and I am going to continue to be very clear and very vocal on both of those points.
Finally, the President also announced during a speech in Germany this week that he wants to go further in unilaterally reducing our nuclear weapons capabilities. There are some really good reasons not to do that. First and foremost, I think most of us agree that there is a strong incentive to reduce nuclear proliferation around the globe. One of the reasons that other countries aren't increasing their stockpiles of weapons is that they feel confident that our "nuclear umbrella" is sufficient to protect them. If they don't feel the threat, they don't feel the need to build more. The smaller our umbrella gets, the more weapons we are going to see developed by countries whose governments we don't control. The other reason is pretty simple. The Russians are falling out of their chairs laughing at this announcement. Reductions in "strategic" nuclear weapons have no impact on levels of "tactical" nuclear weapons and it is there that Russia already has a 10-to-1 advantage. That means we're unilaterally reducing when our chief adversary already has a much larger stockpile.
The President can talk all he wants about a "nuclear-free" world and I share his desire to see that come true someday, but if you think that Vladimir Putin is gathering his generals together in the Kremlin to talk about ways to reduce their nation's capabilities, you're flat crazy. Our enemies and our adversaries are tickled to death that we are unilaterally making ourselves weaker. That ought to be reason enough to think twice about what the President is doing, but the real issue is proliferation. That's just the reality we're facing. And while I know the President's whole vision for the world is predicated on "hope", the rest of are living in a world governed by reality. It's great to hope that the threats to this country (and to all of humanity) will diminish one day, but I think in the interim, it's best not to increase those threats. That's just one man's opinion. As always, I'm anxious to hear yours. Thanks again.