We would be ecstatic if this editorial is out-of-date by the time you read it and the Congress has passed a farm bill that supplies an improved safety net for farmers and ranchers and a realistic level of savings in the federal food stamp program.
But we’re not holding our breath.
Last week, the conference committee on the farm bill got together for the first time. One by one, senators and representatives on the committee announced their intentions to work together.
“We have the responsibility to do it; let’s not take years to get it done,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said as his counterpart, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and the other members of the committee chimed in about their good intentions.
As we have seen in recent years, the road to the Capitol is paved with good intentions. These people couldn’t agree before on a farm bill, they held up the federal government over the spending ceiling, they threatened to shove the nation over a fiscal cliff — and now they say they can work together on a farm bill? What changed, other than the news cycle?
We are optimists, but we’re not delusional. Congress, to a member, appears to have forgotten how the political process works.
A veteran senator once told us, “Listen, politics is about arithmetic. If you don’t have the votes to pass something, you need to find them. If you can’t find them, you need to figure out a way to get them. Most of the time, that means finding a compromise. If you won’t do that, shut up.”
Those words would be lost in the current crew occupying the House, Senate and White House. They act like they don’t know how to compromise. That would rather bring everything to a screeching halt because, well, because they can.
As a result they look good to the true believers, grab a lot of headlines and keep editorial cartoonists busy, but the business of running the government is relegated to a sideshow.
At the same time, these showboats can report to their campaign donors — the constituents don’t really seem to matter — that they “fought the good fight” but came up empty. They held their ground and got absolutely nothing in return. What a good job they did.
Did it occur to them that if they had compromised just a little they could have gotten at least some of their goal?
Yet they would rather have 100 percent of nothing than 50 percent of something.
There’s another arithmetic lesson they have forgotten, or never learned.
We’re ready to see Congress get itself back on track. We’re ready for a new farm bill, immigration reform, budget reform — and dozens of other important issues that need to be addressed.
But again, we’re not holding our breath. We’re prepared for 100 percent of nothing. Again.