August 12, 2013

Big Farms, Small Government: An Interview With Tim Huelskamp

By: Rick Barton

One of the chief hypocrisies of government appears when elected officials preach a message of liberty and limited government but then send large government programs back to their home districts. Rep.  Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., does not do that. His district is home to a large rural farming population and receives roughly $5 billion in direct assistance annually. Where other representatives might enthusiastically vote to continue these farming subsidies, Huelskamp has been voting against them.

Huelskamp was elected in 2010 after serving four consecutive terms in the Kansas State Senate, where he had been the youngest state senator in 20 years. He is a devout Roman Catholic and holds a Ph.D. in political science and agricultural policy from the American University.

The Farm Bill is the hot topic right now. You come from a district with a large farming influence how has that affected your votes?

TH: “This was an issue I ran on; I’ve spoken about it at 180 town hall meetings. There was one man who said, ‘It’s your job to look out for our checks.’ But most people seem to understand that to balance a budget these cuts need to happen. What my constituents want are regulatory certainty and reasonable crop insurance.”

A large part of the congressman’s opposition to the bill comes from the government food assistance program that is included within it. Roughly 80 percent of the Farm Bill is SNAP spending, which simply does not belong in the Farm Bill, according to Huelskamp. He believes that SNAP should be split off into its own bill, which makes it more accountable and easier to manage.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., offered an NSA amendment that failed. Do you see any hope for future efforts?

TH: “We have already come a long ways in a very short time. We went from the very existence of the program being denied to some of those in charge recognizing that reform is necessary. When I speak to my constituents back home and explain to them what is going on, they are usually outraged. Normally, in this city, there are results when there’s pressure from back home.”

Huelskamp points to the coalition of members from both sides of the aisle as proof that there is still hope for reform to be made.

TH: “There is very little trust of the administration and the intelligence agencies among those in Congress. Clapper lied to the public but he’s still sitting. There is certainly room for improvement and members from both parties want answers.”

Moving forward from the defeat in the last election, what does the future of the Republican Party look like?

TH: “Before I ran I was here in DC after the 2008 election and everyone was performing a sort of autopsy on the McCain campaign. They were talking about new media stuff and how they had a certain number of emails, but then there’s Ron Paul in the back of the room and he’d had more emails than the entire party. At the same time though, the establishment was tell Ron Paul and his supporters, the libertarians, to get out, they weren’t wanted. The same thing was happening last election. I think if this is what the party is going to do, push out libertarians, then there is no future for the party.”

TH: “We can’t out Santa Claus the Democrats so we need to change the message from, ‘here’s what government can do for you’ to ‘here’s how we can get government out of your way.’ A lot of people are saying that things like amnesty are necessary, it is not necessary. What is needed is for Republicans to put in the hard work to get our message out there and make it heard.”

Doublethink intern Rick Barton is a graduate from SUNY Geneseo who specializes in healthcare and technology. Farm image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.