COTTON: He won't admit it, but splitting food stamps and farm subsidies would have doomed both.

Rep. Tom Cotton continues to take a ribbing for his recent ad attempting cover on his vote against the Farm Bill (Cotton, you’ll remember, claimed that Obama “hijacked” it and turned it into a food stamp bill; factcheckers pounced). 

Cotton, as we noted yesterday, doubled down. He blamed the fact-checking on “liberal reporter[s].” He later said that since he grew up on a farm, he knew more than the fact checkers anyways.


Steve Benan of MSNBC, who Cotton will surely dismiss as another liberal reporters, writes that we’re in “the era of post-truth politics.”

In a local interview this week, Cotton said he’s “proud” of his demonstrably dishonest commercial, adding that the fact-checkers didn’t spend time “growing up on a farm,” so he knows “a little bill more about farming than they do.”

As defenses go, Cotton’s argument is gibberish. One need not grow up on a farm to recognize the basic tenets of reality. The congressman told a lie, he knew it was a lie, he got caught telling a lie, and instead of doing the honorable thing, Cotton has decided he likes this lie.

We should pause to note, by the way, that there is a strong argument to make that farm subsidies are need of reform and that the nation spends too much on them. That’s of course not the argument that Cotton is making. His beef, he says, is with the food stamps. 


Here’s the thing, though. Cotton is getting to have his row crops and eat them too. Here’s Mark Hemmingway from the Weekly Standard defending Cotton’s ad against the fact checkers. You’ll note that Hemmingway is opposed to both food stamps and farm subsidies. That’s also true of many right-wing advocacy groups that back Cotton. They give props to Cotton for trying to break what the Standard writer calls “an unholy union…the worst kind of bipartisanship,” even as Cotton gets to go back home and say he’s really for farm subsidies.  

As Grant County cattleman Jeffrey Hall (who presumably knows as much about farming as Cotton) noted yesterday in criticizing Cotton, Cotton’s strategy would doom both the farm subsidies and the food stamps. That might be happy news for the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth, which oppose both. But it’s not so happy an outcome for farmers like Hall. Hall himself made this point: the Farm Bill passes because of a coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans, and the best bet for groups seeking to stop food stamps and farm subsidies is to split them. 


That Cotton’s approach would doom farm subsidies isn’t controversial. Cotton himself said that the Farm Bill stripped of food stamp funding was dead on arrival in the Senate. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to Cotton’s ideological purity. The House bill, stripped of food stamps, was dead. Cotton’s response was, my way or nothing. If others had followed suit, we would have ended up with…nothing. No farm subsidies. In practice, other lawmakers, including the rest of the Arkansas congressional delegation, compromised and passed the bill. 

This is Cotton through and through. He votes against something (see Children’s Hospital) but then says the consequences of his vote don’t count because he would have supported it if only it had been in the ideologically pure form Cotton preferred. In the real world, that means Cotton is going to vote no every time.

It would be one thing if Cotton came out and said he’s opposed to farm subsidies (as Hemmingway does). Instead, he tells Arkansans that he supports farm subsidies even as he votes in a manner that would have the practical impact of cutting them. That’s the real Pinocchio. That’s why farmers like Hall are concerned about Cotton.