Progressive Democrats of America protest Protesters in Los Angeles also wanted the bill to die. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Killing last week’s farm bill was a moral imperative, E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in his column today, so it’s good that that’s what the House of Representatives ended up doing. Nevertheless, he says, it’s a bad sign that a bill too conservative for most House Democrats was also too liberal for a significant chunk of House Republicans. (Basically, it cut the SNAP food-stamp program for the poor, but not nearly enough to satisfy Republicans). Generally everyone thinks the bill was pretty terrible, but at least that meant it was a compromise. Compromise is good, right?

Commenters tend not to like compromises, so there was much rejoicing in the comments section. Why?

1. Because nobody in the comment section likes farm subsidies or crop insurance all that much:


This type of boondoggle bill used to sail through- continuing subsidies to fat cat farmers. Thank goodness someone cares about the taxpayer and the consumer. I am very happy that so many Democrats voted against it. Perhaps they are becoming the party of fiscal responsibility? (just kidding)


[Speaker John] Boehner and the House GOP lost this vote – the bill failed – because for all their hot air and rhetoric, the GOP could not stand to actually make cuts that really do affect their own constituency.

Sure, Big Ag has both Dem and GOP pols on their payroll (donor clients) but a huge swath of the GOP “rural base” are small time farmers – land owners really – who benefit from these payments disproportionately in terms of number of recipients, not total dollars.

This is red-state ‘welfare’ in every sense; blaming the failure on the unwillingness of Dems to make even deeper cuts to their “welfare clients” (SNAP recipients) is just the GOP’s way of blaming the other guy for not doing something they themselves really didn’t want to do.

Yes, they are moral failures, but that was obvious long before the farm bill.

2. Because Congress passing bills in apparently an inherently bad thing:


The country is probably better off with Congress not accomplishing anything.


The very best thing that can be done for all Americans including the middle class is for the government to do very, very little to nothing. NOTHING in the history of Man has ever been as inherently evil as is government.

3. Because the proposed food stamp cuts, as Dionne argues, would be intolerable morally:


Providing food stamps to those who are struggling is a moral imperative. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Also, the commenters say, because cutting food stamps would hurt the US economically:


For every $1 in food stamps – $1.70 is generated in the economy – per the CBO –
BECAUSE food stamps are SPENT in local economies, creating more jobs.


I live in the panhandle of FL. If they took away foodstamps, I think the grocery stores would be empty.


Paying for food stamps is cheaper than paying to put people in jail when they start stealing bread.

…but also because food stamps would not be cut enough:


The food stamp program is actually an indirect handout to Big Food, as they are the ones who supply grocers with the items purchased with SNAP money. Apparently Republicans have reached the point that corporate handouts must be direct and have no benefit to the poor in order to be acceptable.


The roof fell in on Boehner a long time ago. The rest of EJ’s comments on heartless Republicans are real BS given the increase in Food Stamps over the last few years. This bill barely dented that growth. For any major costly legislation like this, both Democratic and Republican support is needed and should be expected. The farm bill, by its nature, is always flawed. Democratic support for it evaporated when Republican lawmakers kept adding amendments to it, like a work requirement for food stamps that made it even more unacceptable to Dems. Really, the bill should be separated in at least two pieces, one that includes all the farm subsidies and one that includes food stamps, etc.

And some commenters share their own ideas for what to replace the bill with: Combine the two parts of the bill into one fix:

Paying farmers directly to feed the poor would provide better nutrition to the poor at a lower cost, while also getting the subsidies to the farmers who grow real, edible food.

Is that too logical and simple for our Congress?

Or guarantee employment rather than a minimum household food budget:

I think the best solution would be to have a jobs office in every town that would provide everyone that stop by 8 hours of employment subsidized by the government. No unemployment, no food stamps, just a hard days work at a living wage. Until the job creators figure out how to do their job again, they get to pay higher taxes to pay for the program. It worked to get us out of the last depression, it can work again.

Or divide up the bill so we can see what parts are popular, and pass those:


The single greatest problem in American Politics – that Food Stamps could ever be a facet of a Farm Bill.

Single issue voting is the only thing that will save our current method of democracy. You vote on defense expenditures and defense expenditures only. You vote on surveillance plans and surveillance plans only. You vote on Food Stamps and food stamps only.

What? Congress doesn’t have enough time to do it that way? They aren’t paid enough to do it that way?

If Dionne’s right that killing this bill was a moral imperative — and commenters here on both sides seem to agree with him — we might have hit accidentally hit upon a system that makes a dysfunctional Congress work for us. Make all bills moral abominations, and then their inability to pass is a big win.