Senior Trump administration officials are reportedly concerned that the president’s $28 billion bailout for farmers hurt by his trade war exceeds the limits of the Commodity Credit Corporation, the government corporation founded during the New Deal that is distributing the funds.
While attorneys at the Department of Agriculture have reportedly signed off on the bailouts, some experts say existing laws may not apply to such a large and ongoing operation. “There is little precedent for an open-ended farmer bailout of this nature,” says the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein, who reports there is strong political pressure within the federal government to distribute the bailout funds quickly.
Joe Glauber, who served as the chief economist at USDA in the Bush and Obama administrations, said he had doubts about the legality of the program. “This is an incredible amount of money and sets a terrible precedent. What’s unusual is the magnitude: It’s just enormous.”
Still, lawmakers have shown little interest in looking into the issue, and Glauber thinks has an idea why. “Congress likes being off the hook, since now they don’t have to take action; the farmers are happy, because they get a lot of money; the administration doesn’t have to worry as much about the fall-out of the trade war,” Glauber told the Post. “The magnitude of these payments is such that there should be much greater scrutiny. But there’s no one guarding the taxpayer here.”