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Agricultural protectionism is nothing new. In 1892, President Grover Cleveland took a principled stand for limited government by vetoing a bill to bail out farmers from a crop-destroying drought. This is a portion of his response to the requested subsidies:
I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.
It has, regrettably, been a long time since a man of such integrity occupied the White House, and today we see more tax dollars than ever being used for protectionist policies that are both unjust and unnecessary. The most recent Farm Bill to pass the legislature contained hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare to farmers, undermining the principles of choice and competition and artificially inflating prices for the rest of us.
In Cleveland’s day, there was at least an attempt to justify such subsidies with a legitimate crisis. Now, it is taken for granted that farmers deserve free money from the government, simply because they are farmers. As if that wasn’t enough, the president is now inventing imaginary crises to justify even further cronyism between government and agriculture.
In the latest of a series of increasingly egregious executive actions, Barack Obama has announced his intention to create several “Climate Hubs” to protect farmers who claim they have been impacted by climate change. The seven proposed hubs will service different regions of the United States, leaving virtually no arable land untouched by their impact.
While not an outright transfer of wealth like the Farm Bill, the USDA claims the purpose of the Climate Hubs is to assess risks from fires and floods to pests and droughts, all apparently connected to climate change in ways that remain obscure at best. In any case, there can be little doubt that the ultimate effect of this risk assessment will be more taxpayer money in farmers’ pockets, justified by trumped up claims of environmental catastrophe.
A secondary feature of Climate Hubs is to conduct further research and data collection on climate change and its effects. Faced with ever shriveling evidence for the apocalyptic prophecies of Al Gore, those who have invested time, money and political capital in promoting green energy based on the fear global warming are desperately searching for fresh meat to throw to the environmentalist crowd. And since the research is being funded by the same administration that has waged war on fossil fuels and propped up failing solar energy companies—remember Solyndra?—we can be sure that the results will fall squarely on the party line.
It is unsurprising that the president has chosen to undertake this initiative himself, without taking the trouble to go through Congress. He has made it perfectly clear that he regards the traditional legislative process as a cumbersome bore. Besides, the proposal’s blatant partisanship and cronyism would not only have difficulty making it through the Republican-controlled House, but would also reflect badly on any of the president’s allies who dared vote for it. One of the consequences of the recent expansion of executive power is legislators’ ability to escape accountability for bad policy. If no vote is held, constituents back home have no way of identifying bad lawmakers and replacing them with better ones.
Climate Hubs appear to be only the first salvo in a larger effort to leverage the climate change narrative into increased executive power and still more spending. The president has since announced his intention to create a $1 billion climate fund in the FY2015 budget, and Secretary of State John Kerry doubled down by comparing the threat of climate change to that of global terrorism.
Mr. Kerry’s hyperbolic nonsense shows that the White House’s approach to climate regulation has become dogmatic to the point of fundamentalism, no longer relying on facts or evidence as an excuse to implement further protectionist policies and corporate welfare on behalf of Big Agriculture.