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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Congress has left me confused. Stunned, actually, as well as bewildered, chagrined and slightly depressed. The GOP-dominated House has passed a bill that defies compassion, mathematics and common sense.

OK, so there’s nothing unusual about that. Point taken.

But the recent passage of a farm bill, after months of delay, is an especially sharp example of congressional priorities — protect the rich and punish the poor, comfort the comfortable while brutalizing the afflicted. The bill will cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), usually known as food stamps, while preserving subsidies for farmers, most of whom could get by quite nicely without help.

By contrast, many Americans are struggling with a globalized, roboticized economy that has devalued the average worker. The new economy has forced down wages, eliminated job security and abandoned traditional perks such as pensions. It is quite possible to work 40 or 50 hours a week and still need help to put food on the table, as the managers of food pantries around the country will attest.

Yet, congressional observers are predicting that the farm bill will pass the Senate and get President Obama’s signature. While most Democrats don’t like the cuts, the current bill, they figure, is the best they can do. It takes about 1 percent from SNAP — around $800 million a year in the $80 billion-a-year program — but that’s less than conservatives had initially sought.

Still, if Republicans really care about deficits, if they really want to rein in government, if they believe people ought to stand on their own two feet and refuse the “welfare state,” why are they preserving welfare for those who need it least? Do they not see the glaring hypocrisy in their insistence on farm subsidies?

The bill does end the least politically defensible part of farm welfare: direct payments, paid to farmers whether they plant or not. But it continues a host of other unnecessary programs that cost billions — including crop subsidies and crop insurance. Indeed, the bill increases some crop subsidies, such as those to Southern peanut farmers. And the remaining programs are just as bad as the direct payments.

Take crop insurance, which has its roots in the Dust Bowl era. Though conditions have changed substantially since then — the small family farmer has virtually disappeared — crop insurance has mushroomed. In 2012, according to The Insurance Journal, taxpayers spent $14 billion insuring farmers against a loss of income. Is there any other business in America that gets that sort of benefit? Aren’t farmers supposed to be entrepreneurs willing to take risks?

  • Independent1

    Here’s the link to an article that provides a bit of irony to the cut in SNAP benefits which was pushed by the Tea Party, an organization that’s been partially sponsored by WalMart; the article available through the link is about WalMart sales being down over the past couple of months because of guess what!! The cuts to SNAP that were enacted back last November.

    Here’s a little excerpt and then the link:

    “Regarding U.S. same-store sales for the company’s fourth quarter, ending Friday, Wal*mart said it expects sales, excluding fuel, to be “slightly negative” to its earlier guidance of flat sales at Wal*mart stores ”

    Why are those sales negative?

    Chief financial officer Charles Holley said Wal*mart saw a greater-than-expected negative impact from reductions in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. The cuts went into effect on Nov. 1
    So why is Wal*mart the most affected? The answer is because it is cheaper. If one is receiving SNAP (or Food Stamps) one is already poor and on a tight budget. It makes good sense if one has only $700 to spend a month, to try and get as many calories as possible for that amount of money. The best place to do that is Wal*mart.

    • daniel bostdorf

      Very nice….See my comment above about the behind the scenes lobbying.

    • daniel bostdorf

      Walmart : “Charles M. Holley Jr., the company’s chief financial officer, said that despite a fairly decent holiday season, the impact from reductions to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps program, was “greater than we expected,” the Times reports.”

      Walmart Too Expensive for Food Stamp Recipients:

      • FredAppell

        Great comment Daniel, I wonder many workers of the three
        big corporations that you mentioned have benefited from the tax subsidies, my guess is none. I’ll wager that many of them may be on food stamps though and not by choice. Funny how these huge businesses hate worker’s unions but isn’t
        lobbying a form of unionizing for the super rich? After all, they’re looking for money,perks and special conditions to benefit themselves. That’s the very essence of unionizing, to protect one’s own interest. Hypocrisy barely describes what is actually going on here, I’d say depravity describes it more aptly.

        • Patricia Richard

          Or giving the working poor a little more to eat?

    • dpaano

      Yeah, the House has cut off it’s nose to spite its face, so to speak. They’re going to find out that by cutting unemployment insurance and food stamps, etc., the country’s economy is going to take a big blow! I wonder if they’ll find a way to blame our president for that?

  • daniel bostdorf

    This is an important article by Tucker. Especially her summary:

    “Fraud, by the way, is rampant in farm subsidies, although you’re
    unlikely to hear anything about it. While the occasional welfare cheat
    or food stamp grifter is held up as an example of widespread abuse,
    neither politicians nor reporters talk much about the fraud involved in
    agricultural programs. You have to burrow into reports from the
    Government Accountability Office for that. They point to millions stolen
    by farm cheats. It’s enough to make you wonder what the food stamp critics are really upset about. Government spending? Or giving the working poor a little more to eat?

    Food stamp critics are paid to spread lies and propaganda about those in poverty in America who somehow mooch off all of us…..It is the lobbyists and big farm corporations that REALLY mooch off the taxpayer…

    Business Week also reports that that over $150 million dollars was spent by big farm related coroprations… QUOTE: “In all, groups pressing for the bill spent $150 million on lobbying in 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending. At least 350 companies and organizations, including Monsanto (MON), PepsiCo (PEP), and Dean Foods (DF), hired lobbyists in 2013 to work on the Senate’s farm bill.


    Only debates over the federal budget, immigration, and defense spending attracted more lobbying muscle, according to the center. The legislation cuts food stamp spending by $8.6 billion over 10 years—a fifth of the $40 billion that Republicans wanted and that Democrats and food retailers fought to protect. Crop growers will lose $50 billion in subsidies over the next decade, including an end to the controversial direct payments program, which gave checks to some farmers regardless of financial need. Growers will get back about two-thirds of that lost spending in the form of enhanced crop insurance and other benefits.”

    And who benefited from this theft from those in poverty and working poor framers?

    Tucker answers this:

    One case of mind-boggling hypocrisy is that of U.S. Rep. Stephen
    Fincher, a Republican and a farmer from Frog Jump, TN, who collected
    nearly $3.5 million in subsidies from 1999 to 2012, according to the
    Environmental Working Group. In 2012, he received $70,000 in direct
    payments alone — again, money paid to farmers whether they plant or not.
    (Can anyone say “moochers” and “takers”?)

    U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Republican. Who voted in favor of this bill.
    More about this right wing henchman:

    • Independent1

      Great articles! Thanks! As Tucker says, it’s difficult to weed out just how much fraud is going on with the agri-business subsidies, so it could be pretty high, while from what I’ve read, Congress is grossly overblowing the amount of fraud in SNAP – best estimates I’ve seen is that it’s under 1.5% – which is phenominally low for a government-run program that provides assistance to over 45 million people. So my answer to the question on what SNAP critics are really upset about – is that they just begrudge giving assistance to the poor. Their claim of reducing SNAP because of its abuses are total nonsense.

  • docb

    It would be of much interest if all the House members who receive HUGE SUBSIDIES on their family FARMS like Huelskamp of Kansas were revealed.

    That coupled with the repub second class proposal for the undocumented are linked inextricably to personal GREED and PROTECTION OF THE BIG CORPORATIONS!

    • Independent1

      You got it! It would probaly be very eye opening to see just how much conflict of interest there is among our legislators – those who vote for continuing massive subsidies because they know it will continue breaking TAXPAYER money into THEIR POCKETS!!!

      And it would also be nice to know, how many of these same legislators manage to finagle their taxes so they pay a very small percent of their gross income in taxes.

    • jbowen43

      The Environmental Working Group web page is the place to look

      • Duckbudder

        Also the USDA website. You have to look it up by county, so it will take some digging.

  • Let’s remember that the Republicans voted to cut $40 billion from food stamps over 10 years, and they wanted to implement work requirements and drug testing. The Democrats voted to cut $4 billion from food stamp over ten years, by closing a loophole that exists in 16 states in which some people in those 16 states get LIHEAP (low income energy funds) and SNAP benefits to which they aren’t entitled. (The compromise is cutting $8 billion by closing that loophole. No work requirements or drug testing.) The Republican cuts were considered to be “draconian”. Yeah, a 5% cut in SNAP is a big, big hit.

    As LIHEAP funds are limited, if some people are getting LIHEAP funds even though they don’t pay energy costs, others who are entitled to LIHEAP funds aren’t going to be able to get them. Should people really get LIHEAP funds if they aren’t actually paying energy costs? This is the loophole which most people complaining about “cuts in food stamps” don’t get and/or aren’t being told.

    In 16 states, welfare workers grant a small amount or LIHEAP money, perhaps as small as a dollar a month, to people applying for SNAP benefits. People aren’t supposed to get LIHEAP moneys unless they are actually paying directly for their own energy (vs. their landlord paying the energy). But getting LIHEAP makes people categorically qualified to receive food stamps. With the loophole closed, people will have to show some proof that they are paying for their own energy before they get LIHEAP moneys. This is what happens in the other 33 or 34 states.

    Remember that, because LIHEAP funds are limited, 100 people getting LIHEAP funds of even $1 a month to which they are not entitled means that someone who really is entitled to that $100 a month isn’t going to get it.

    Now it is true that direct payments are going away, and that is a good thing. Crop insurance is controversial, but this is one of those smelly compromises. The Repubs had to get something to get them to leave SNAP benefits alone… And, yes, this compromise really does leave SNAP benefits alone. It is expected to affect 850,000 families in only 16 states. Many of those families are not really eligible for SNAP benefits.

    There are definitely things that could be improved in this bill.. but what are the chances that those improvements would be implemented with Republicans in control of the House? And what happens if this bill is not passed now and the Senate passes to Republicans in the fall.. which is not an impossibility?

    • daniel bostdorf

      Thoughtful post—and you have good ones at Raw Story and National Journal too 🙂

  • jbowen43

    Do away with the Conservation Reserve Program that pays farmers to not farm good farm land and bad farm land. Shouldn’t the landowner be responsible for taking proper care of the land and not need to be bribed to do the right thing?

  • jbowen43

    Ordinarily welfare is asset and income (means) tested, but apparently not when it goes to farmers in the form of subsidies.

  • charles king

    Now Is the time for all good People of Democracy to do some (Critical Thinking) about What? is happening in this SNAP program. The country has many of its citizens starving and Congress playing games about the deficts. What? the hell is going on in your Country, People wake up and toss these Plutocracts out of your Country cause they are making the Rich, richer , and the Poor, poorer. Proffessor Tucker laid out The Snap program on how much it helps the working poor, and yet the Congress want to take away money from the program that is helping everyone Who? is in need. Why? can’t this DIS-RESPECT for the poor be stopped. People VOTE those representives OUT, Who? are going against the People’s NEEDS. By the People, for the People, and of the People, you know Who? they are. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Think America ! Mr. C. E. KING

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    For every dollar in Federal Welfare a congressman receives for his “second job”, he should lose at least $1 in his Congressional Paycheck. Therefore, should have lost at least $70K last year in Pay.

  • Gary Graves

    They don’t like abortions , they don’t want to feed them when not aborted, they don’t want to send them to school, they want to keep them poor and working for a dollar a hour. What do the republicans want? They want you to pay them for not raising food to feed the poor, what they want is slaves.

  • Firey Hooks

    Since collectivist illusions are generally conjured up to exploit our emotions and attempt to justify plunder’s injustice, we have no reason to accept them as moral, legitimate, or just.