Republicans are using the new farm bill as a vehicle to continue their long tradition of ensuring government money does not go to undeserving recipients. Oh, you say, they’re going to change the law so that rich people no longer qualify for farm subsidies and crop-insurance subsidies (see NYT article yesterday)? You mean billionaires like Paul Allen and Charles Schwab won’t continue to get government $$ for the farmland owned by the intertwined rat’s nest of corporate shells they maintain? Multistate food producing corporations that bear as much resemblance to a struggling family farm as the US Navy does to a couple duck hunters in a rowboat will have their handouts cut?
Hah! Of course not. We can’t do means testing when the well-to-do are involved. No, the undeserving recipients of aid who worry the Republicans are hungry people (as in hungry for food, not as in hungry for wealth and power—those people don’t bother Republicans a bit). The specific hungry people are those receiving food stamps from SNAP, the supplemental nutritional assistance program (interestingly always handled under the Farm Bill). The food stamp program was cut by $5 billion Nov. 1, which is already having a significant impact. And the House is proposing to cut $40 billion over the next decade which will remove 3.8 million people from SNAP the first year (and keep 210,000 kids from getting free school meals).
Why are the Republicans doing this? Well, they say the economy has recovered, so there theoretically shouldn’t be as many hungry people, so we should cut down the number we help. Unfortunately the “recovery” didn’t trickle down to the bottom. There are still 49.7 million people living in poverty and the SNAP program helps keep several million above that line (see Americanprogress.org).
And if the Republicans don’t care about feeding the poor (perhaps they all misplaced their Bibles) they should at least consider that the food stamp $$ go directly to businesses (ummm, businesses making money! Me likey!). And if that isn’t enough benefit to people who are not desperately poor, perhaps we could tack on a provision to have SNAP fund caviar carts that circulate around the offices of busy hedge fund managers. Then food aid would never be touched.