Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post commented today about the current farm subsidy bill veto and subsequent process to override:
In Congress, a bill is likely to get a lot of votes if there’s something in it for everyone. While Congress often finds itself caring mostly about the parts, it’s the president’s job to focus on the whole.
So Bush rises above politics to act presidential — and that’s when Congress shows some spine? That’s what it takes for Republicans to leave his side and join forces with Democrats?
In a time of riots because of increasing living costs, not to mention the negative effect that subsidies in domestic agriculture have on developing nations, it is disturbing for our Congress to side with the powerfully popular farming interests. With report after report about rising food prices, it seems that our representatives have not matched what we are willing (as a nation) to sacrifice for the benefit of a few. I agree that a government’s value (and with it legitimacy)* is based on the public policy manager’s ability to satisfy public desires and require sacrifice. As Mark Moore explained,
it is not enough to say that public managers create results that are valued; they must be able to show that the results obtained are worth the cost of private consumption and unrestrained liberty forgone […] Only then can we be sure that some public value has been created.**
Congress has, no doubt, required more sacrifice in the pushing of this subsidy bill, but in doing so, they have not moved far enough away from personal interests to address the sacrificial impact on the nation as a whole. It is a troubling standard to financially benefit the few privileged at the expense of the struggling masses.
*“The legitimacy of government as a whole generally depends on how well it creates value.” Kelly, Gavin; Geoff Mulgan; Stephen Muers; “Creating Public Value: An analytical framework for public service reform,” Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office, United Kingdom, Oct 2002, http://www.strategy.gov.uk
**Moore, Mark; “Defining Public Value,” Creating Public Value, Harvard University Press, 1995