While the new U.S. farm bill legislation that passed the Senate this week may not be the best thing for our region -- the fact that U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, couldn't support it is certainly cause for concern -- one aspect of it that, as far as we can tell, has nothing to do with agriculture certainly has merit.
That is the amendment by U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., that eliminates the public subsidy of the Democrats' and Republicans' party conventions.
Coburn said that this year the American taxpayers are chipping in more than $36 million to help pay for the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., and the GOP convention in Tampa. Each party will be getting a check for more than $18 million from taxpayers who checked the $3 box on their tax returns.
"We're borrowing money from the Chinese to fund a 'Hallelujah Party' in both Tampa and Charlotte this year, each one of them getting $18.4 million. It's time that kind of nonsense stops," Coburn said in a report by National Public Radio.
It's not like either party needs the extra cash to defray the cost of balloons and confetti. The Democrats have raised $37 million for their event and the Republicans have done even better, raising about $50 million. Each would seem to be more than enough for the purpose of throwing a decent shindig.
Of course, it's too late to stop the Treasury checks to the two parties this year. But if the House follows suit -- it tried to do this last year, but the Senate dropped the ball -- it would end taxpayer check-offs to fund future conventions. After last year's defeat in the Senate, Coburn was expecting to come up short again this week, but the amendment was supported by something almost unheard of these days -- a strong bipartisan vote of 95-4.
The arguments for keeping up these taxpayer payments for political spending are, at best, weak.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., one of the four Democratic nay votes, told NPR that if the public funding isn't continued, "you're going to have only corporate money involved in conventions and I think, frankly, you know, the public should have an opportunity to contribute if they want."
And they still can. Anyone in America is free to write a check to any party they choose. There's simply no reason for the U.S. government to collect the money and send it to them.
"In these tough times," Coburn said, "there's no justification for spending public funds on booze, balloons and confetti when both parties are awash in campaign donations."
Indeed, though we'd argue that was wasteful spending even in times of plenty.