Farm welfare queen

The media jackals have been all over Rep. Michele Bachmann for misstatements, zany ideas and alterations to history as she kicked off her presidential run in Waterloo, Iowa, home to serial killer John Wayne Gacy — not the actor John Wayne, as she said in her evocation of dreamy small-town life.

From her contention that eliminating the minimum wage would mean full employment to her assertion that "almost all" people in the "gay lifestyle" have been abused, these things can be explained. Bachmann has a worldview that requires constant reshaping in the face of real life. However, if God is writing the script for her campaign, as she says, he needs a fact-checker.

When pressed on her unique view of American origins — that "the very same founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more" — Bachmann doubled-down, citing as her only proof the abolitionist John Quincy Adams. Given that Adams was just 8 years old when the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, 10-year-old Sasha Obama should be remembered for killing the world's top terrorist.

All of the above only fortifies Bachmann's position with a Republican base that would eat dog food for breakfast if the government said you should not.

But what is more troubling is the issue raised by taxpayer payments for various Bachmann family enterprises. This is where rigid ideology meets mushy reality. The Bachmann family farm in Wisconsin got $251,000 in federal handouts from 1995 to 2009, according to the invaluable table of subsidies put out annually by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research organization.

There's no story there, Bachmann insisted, because she and her husband didn't get a dime from the farm. It went to her late father-in-law, she said. If that were so, why did she list herself and husband as financial partners in the farm for every year that she has been in Congress? Are her congressional disclosure forms accurate, the ones with a handwritten declaration of earning "farm income" of up to $102,500 from the Bachmann limited partnership?

Her husband, Marcus Bachmann, while farming the government one way through the business of his parents, tills another field of federal money with his mental health clinic in Lake Elmo, Minn., which offers "quality Christian counseling" for the troubled. The clinic has collected Medicaid payments of roughly $137,000 since 2005, NBC News reported this week, on top of $24,000 in state funds to train the clinic's staff.

Fine. It's all legal. Wouldn't every small business love to have a stream of reliable government revenue. And the hypocrisy of a socialism-hating tea party leader professing to own a piece of a farm that has been engaged in the nation's most indefensible socialist scheme is just standard behavior for a politician worthy of the calling.

Bachmann's fabrications show a brain fevered in cognitive dissonance. She has to believe that the founders were perfect and divinely inspired — not flawed men who rose to greatness. Not, in Thomas Jefferson's case, even much of a Christian, and an owner of slaves valued as three-fifths of a person in those same heaven-sent blueprints.

So she tells a fable, and like Sarah Palin when caught in a lie, refuses to admit the mistake. Her supporters cite Barack Obama, the candidate, who mentioned that he'd been to "57 states" in the 2008 campaign. See, he makes stuff up, too! The obvious difference is that Obama did not continue to insist on the accuracy of the error.

Farm subsidies are at least consistent with modern Republican ideas on wealth concentration. But, in every other way, they make a mockery of Bachmann's political philosophy.

Even in times of bumper crops and record prices, rich landowners reap a harvest of tax dollars. Many of them, like those self-described partners in agriculture Michele and Marcus Bachmann, seldom get any dirt under their fingernails. About 90,000 checks went out last year to landowners who live in cities. Ah, to be a therapist with a field of federally fertilized corn.

Nationwide, 10 percent of the subsidized farms get 76 percent of all the handouts: $447,873 per recipient over the last 16 years, the database shows.

These payments assure protection from the cruel swings of the free market. Bachmann herself has pressed for even more farm socialism. In 2009, she praised the Agriculture Department for injecting money into the pork industry in an effort to keep prices up — and she urged further government intervention.

"You don't privatize your profit and socialize your losses," she said this week, to a big cheer. If only it were true on the Bachmann family farm.

© 2011 New York Times

Farm welfare queen 07/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 6:13pm]

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