(See Complete Farm Subsidy Database)
A chart provided by Braley's spokesman broke down the proposal in more detail. Cuts to defense spending (like eliminating the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund and cutting 3.5 percent from the Pentagon and Homeland Security)? Of course! Cuts to farm subsidies? Sorta.
The congressman did support "prohibiting funds from being used to make farm commodity payments to people or entities in excess of $250,000." The savings here were listed as being about $100 million.
That's a drop in the bucket of the $6 billion to $16 billion in commodity program payments made to farmers annually between 1999 and 2009, according to the USDA.
(The USDA says payments are mostly concentrated among certain types of farms, and fewer than 30 percent actually get payments in a typical year.)
Fellow Iowa Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack saw his district get $48.2 million in farming subsidies in 2011. (Loebsack also voted to end oil and gas exploration subsidies in January of 2007, incidentally.)
Both Loebsack and Braley support cuts to defense spending, once considered a sacred cow in Washington.
Your Pork—My Sacred Cow
In some districts, congressional "pork" is vital to economic health.
The 2010 congressional race in Virginia's 2nd District, for example, centered around one key issue.
In 2009, the Navy had former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' support to move one of five aircraft carriers from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla.
Norfolk is home to the world's largest naval base, and the military is a huge employer. Figures from 2010 showed that DOD spending had nearly doubled in the past decade and accounted for 40 percent of the regional economy.
Republican Scott Rigell beat Democratic incumbent Glenn Nye in the race, promising to do everything he could to keep the carriers in Norfolk.
The Navy argued that the move was necessary in order to reduce the risk of a catastrophic attack and to lessen the potential impact from natural disasters in areas like Norfolk where the fleet is concentrated.
Members of Congress and Senators representing Virginia, though, were not on board.
Officials in Virginia said moving the Norfolk-based carrier would drain the Hampton Roads economy of about $600 million per year, eliminating over 10,000 jobs.
Florida representatives, on the other hand, welcomed the move, which would boost the Jacksonville area's ship-repair industrial base. (The two sides ultimately compromised, deciding to move three ships instead.)
Lesson: When cutting government spending means taking on local sacred cows, don't expect most politicians, no matter what their party or stated ideological posture, to put their own jobs at risk.