Yet farm subsidies have lived on. Their survival has nothing to do with any public policy merits. There is no persuasive economic rationale for why the government should write checks to people who operate farms as opposed to textile mills or construction firms or any other business. (Yes, people need to eat, but the market is capable of supplying food, just as it is capable of supplying clothing and shelter.) Farmers are also more affluent than the average American. Since they are overwhelmingly white and conveniently spread throughout nearly every state, their claim to public subsidy has gained some popular legitimacy.
Faced with his controversial vote against the farm bill, Cotton has urgently fashioned himself as an agri-supremacist. He has urged the locals to ignore the judgment of fact-checking journalists who pronounce his ad false: “I don’t think liberal reporters who call themselves fact checkers spent much time growing up on a farm in Yell County growing up with Len Cotton, so I think I know a little bill more about farming than they do.” Cotton’s identity as a onetime farmboy, by this argument, lends him a superiority in any dispute over farm policy that overrides even the facts themselves. Cotton perhaps first developed this epistemological theory while studying philosophy at Harvard.
Cotton goes further still. Molly Ball, in an engrossing profile, reports that Cotton argues against food stamps because its recipients live high on the hog: “They have steak in their basket, and they have a brand-new iPhone, and they have a brand-new SUV.” As an argument against food stamps, this is laughably false: The program offers a benefit averaging $1.50 per person per meal, and its beneficiaries are quite poor.
This is perfect. Evidence doesn’t matter because it’s provided by those outsiders who probably don’t go to church. Growing up in Yell County (a bit too on the nose I think), with that kind of background what can’t one say about policies that effect the good people of Arkansas? That also gives him “credibility” to talk about those
big black bucks moochers driving up in their Cadillac and paying for steak dinners with their welfare checks
Mark Pryor might not be anyone’s favorite Democrat. The nation will be worse off when he is replaced by Tom Cotton.