Jeff Wattrick, one of Michigan’s best muckraking journalists, went to hear Rand Paul’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club last week and asked him a simple question: Why did you vote to continue subsidizing crop insurance for tobacco farmers? His response was a rather blatant lie.
Paul had just finished telling the crowd at the Motor City Casino that government programs hinder rather than help economic activity so, given his libertarian view of government programs, it’s odd that he would support a program that shackles tobacco farmers in his home state of Kentucky to the burden of federally-subsidized insurance. This is a man who once equated food stamps to slavery, after all.
Crop insurance subsidies sound a lot like Obamacare—Paul is a critic—for plants instead of people. You’d think Paul would want the government to get out of the way, so the free market would be better able to fulfill the crop insurance needs of his tobacco-growing constituents.
The junior senator from Kentucky has (mostly) been against farm subsidies in the past and he did mention his general opposition on Friday. However, when he had an opportunity to kill one of those subsidies, Paul apparently sided with the big government status quo. What happened?
Paul explained that he voted against the tobacco amendment—offered by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA)—because, he said, it wouldn’t have actually eliminated the subsidy.
“I don’t think the amendment was to cut the program,” Paul said, explaining that the issue was whether or not the program would be included in the budget or as an off-budget item.
But in fact the amendment he voted against would have eliminated federal subsidies for tobacco crop insurance, saving over $30 million a year. Paul voted against it, of course, because of pressure from Kentucky’s tobacco farmers, who didn’t want the federal gravy train to end. But food stamps are like slavery. And government subsidies are terrible. Except when they’re not.