Issue: H.R. 6233 Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012. Sponsor: Frank Lucas (R-OK-3).
Result: Passed in House, 223 to 197, 10 not voting. Republicans scored.
Bill Summary: Indemnifies farmers and ranchers for drought-related (and other) losses in FY 2012 through the federal government’s Commodity Credit Corporation.
Note: FDR created the Commodity Credit Corporation in 1933 by executive order to “stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices.” The congressional appropriations process periodically restores the CCC’s working capital, depleted through the inevitable net losses from its operations.
Analysis: By late July 2012, the federal government had already designated 1,297 counties in 29 states as federal disaster areas because of lack of rain. The broad impact of the drought ensured that a relief measure would have significant support from politicians, in both parties, who did not feel constrained by the limits of the Constitution.
Moreover, supporters could point to the fact that the costs of the aid were to be more than offset by reductions in the Conservation Stewardship and Environmental Quality incentives programs. (But these programs are also unconstitutional and should be eliminated, anyway.)
Although the total amount of this bill is modest ($383 million in aid), as federal expenditures go, H.R. 6233 is an excellent example of politics overriding long-forgotten principle. For almost a century, the federal government has promoted the idea that with its deep pockets it has the responsibility to insulate Americans from all kinds of problems.
Commenting on an earlier House vote, the Establishment’s New York Times reported:
“Democrats and Republicans agree that [disaster] assistance is one of the government’s main responsibilities, but disagree over how much of the cost can be anticipated and how much, if any, should be offset.” [Emphasis added.] —“House Rebukes G.O.P. Leaders Over Spending,” New York Times, 9/21/11
If the Times is correct, then both parties agree that the Constitution is irrelevant. Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the federal government to provide disaster aid. At one time in our nation’s history, that was understood. In one of his most famous vetoes (1886), President Grover Cleveland rejected the “Texas Seed Bill” on constitutional grounds (see the excerpt from his veto message below). The bill would have provided minimal disaster assistance to a number of drought-stricken Texas counties.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Noes and (bad vote) to the Ayes. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
On February 16, 1886, President Grover Cleveland delivered his veto message on the “Texas Seed Bill” to the House of Representatives. The following excerpt speaks to principles long ignored by today’s collectivist-oriented media:
“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 steadily 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.
“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”
Instead of asserting an unconstitutional responsibility to provide disaster aid, government’s main responsibility should be to get us out of the unconstitutional mess it has created.
Correcting the mess doesn’t necessarily mean going “cold turkey” on all unconstitutional spending. In some cases, it just means letting programs run their course and expire. But restoring constitutional government does means slashing the enormous borrowing, taxing, and spending of the federal government, so the states can acquire the revenue to do what the voters want their states to do and the voters have the means to provide private charity and “strengthen the bonds of a common brotherhood.”