But this time it's different…
How many times have we heard those words – not as an apology for past mistakes but as a justification for one's current actions?
It seems the GOP excels at this justification. Whether it be championing spending cuts, but then seeking to restore funding for the Federal Aviation Administration because "it's different when they have to wait in line at the airport," or Michelle Bachman decrying Obama's stimulus package as "fantasy economics" and an "orgy" of government spending, but then being the first to request funding to stimulate projects in her home state of Minnesota. Ah yes, it's just "so different."
Recently, we saw two more such examples of opportunistic capitulating. In 2008, Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., bragged in a press release after then-President Bush declared 24 Oklahoma counties eligible for disaster aid due to severe weather, "I am pleased that the people whose lives have been affected by disastrous weather are getting much-needed federal assistance." But four years later he voted to deny emergency funding for those areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Then, when confronted with the prospect of providing federal disaster aid money to those decimated in Moore, Oklahoma following the devastating tornado, Inhofe pledged his unqualified support, stating on MSNBC that unlike Sandy, this is "totally different." Really? When Americans lose their homes, possessions and livelihood due to uncontrolled natural forces, I didn't think there really was a difference or justification for politicians to pick and choose the winners and losers.
And then there's Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., who was elected on the tea party platform vowing to reform government such as farm programs and cut wasteful spending. During the recent House Agriculture Committee's markup of the Farm Bill, he lived up to his promise and voted to cut $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly known as food stamps – but then turned around and SUPPORTED an increase and expansion of crop insurance subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years.
In committee, he claimed that SNAP funding, which goes to those whose income is below 130 percent of the federal poverty line, (mainly children, elderly and military retirees), is stealing "other people's money that Washington is appropriating and spending," but yet, somehow, he has no issue spending "other's people money" to fund crop insurance subsides because they are "so different."
The kicker: According to research by the Environment Working Group, Fincher is the second most heavily subsidized farmer in Congress and one of the largest subsidy recipients in Tennessee history. From 1999 to 2012, Fincher received $3.48 million in crop insurance subsidies.
I guess the rule-of-thumb is when it affects your personal bottom line – either financially or by impacting your prospective political longevity, things truly are different.