Congress is dysfunctional, and the lack of bipartisan efforts to pass a farm bill or create a solution to America’s growing debt is a major concern. That’s according to two veteran ag policy experts who discussed important agricultural issues during the opening session at the Agricultural Media Summit ongoing this week in Albuquerque, N.M.
Billed as “The Great Debate, Part II,” Kansas State University professor emeritus Barry Flinchbaugh and former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm instead found much more to agree upon when discussing solutions to ag policy and the U.S. economy.
Flinchbaugh said the polarized U.S. Congress is now doing to American farmers what it has done to the economy since 2007 – created an atmosphere of uncertainty. That uncertainty comes from not completing work on the farm bill before the August recess. And neither Flinchbaugh nor Stenholm are optimistic that it will get done before the election.
"The last Gallup poll gave Congress a 9 percent approval rating. If I were a part of this Congress I'd be too embarrassed to go home. I hope they get an earful of what they royally deserve,” Flinchbaugh said.
Stenholm said lawmakers need to begin “looking at how we can work together to solve the problems of our country. We have to find ways to agree that compromise is not a four-letter word. I find it unbelievable that Congress went home without passing a Farm Bill."
Both Flinchbaugh and Stenholm stated concern about the looming “fiscal cliff” that Congress has failed to address. That fiscal cliff refers to the projected slowing of the economy or recession if specific laws are allowed to automatically expire or go into effect at the end of 2012. That includes the expiration of the so-called Bush tax cuts, and the first round of spending reductions under the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“We need to cut spending and raise taxes,” Flinchbaugh said. “It’s time to bite the bullet.”
Stenholm said that Congress is good at “kicking the can down the road,” but that “everything should be on the table” when discussions are held about deficit reduction, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaide.
Both were asked to give their predictions for this fall’s elections. "I think Obama will not win, he will just fail to lose," Flinchbaugh said. Stenholm believes Obama will win, mainly because of what he perceives as Mitt Romney’s weaknesses. Regarding the U.S. House of Representatives, Stenholm believes the Republicans will lose seats but maintain majority control.
Stenholm said he does not believe “this election is going to change anything, because we are a divided country.”
While both men acknowledged frustration with the current political climate, Flinchbaugh said, “I was born an optimist and I’ll die an optimist. But, I sure as hell better not die tomorrow.”