Thursday, June 20, 2013

SNAP! Agricultural Subsidies For Wealthy Republicans-- Starvation For Poor Families-- Sinks GOP Farm Bill


During the Vietnam War I never thought I'd actually return to the U.S. I was so ashamed of what my country was doing to the people of Southeast Asia. But one morning I woke up in Amsterdam and realized I had been dreaming in Dutch. I decided to go home and I was back in America within 2 weeks. I had been away for nearly seven years and I had a real period of readjustment, especially when I washed up in San Francisco, a city I had never lived in. I was lucky to have some Sufi connections from the meditation center I had worked in in Amsterdam and I was lucky to have met Harvey Milk who staked me for the equipment I needed to set up a dark room and get work as a photographer. But, economically-speaking, I had a couple of pretty bleak years before getting back on my feet. I could have never gotten through it without... you... us... the U.S.A. That's right, the America I had fled because of my abhorrence of the bombing in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos stepped up to the plate for me. The government gave me food stamps.

It wasn't much of an investment but it helped keep me alive through the tough times while I invested in building an independent record company. It paid off for Uncle Sam too. Eventually that record company that would never have been built without the food stamps I existed on, was successful. I sold it to SONY. The U.S. taxpayers got their food stamp investment back in one transaction. And then I went on to a successful career in the corporate world. Some years I paid over a million dollars in taxes. No one likes paying that much in taxes but I always reminded myself that without the help I got from the government, I would never have been in the position to make enough money so that I would be paying that much in taxes.

That's why I was so furious when a bunch of political hacks, some of whom have never done much of anything aside from feed at the public trough, voted against food stamp help for desperately poor people. In various committees looking at the SNAP program it wasn't only Republicans voting to slash the program to ribbons, but also some easily corrupted and misled Democrats, primarily New Dems and Blue Dogs.

Tuesday when the Republicans wanted to bring up their latest anti-Choice/War On Women legislation, the resolution read like this: "Providing for consideration of H.R. 1947, to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through FY 2018; and providing for consideration of H.R. 1797, to amend title 18, U.S. Code, to protect pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia." I don't recall ever seeing such a bizarre and unrelated pairing. But even at that-- and it passed 232-193-- 5 extremely right-wing Democrats were happy to go along with the bizarre duo of bills: Dan Lipinksi (IL), Mike McIntyre (New Dem/Blue Dog-NC), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Tim Walz (MN) and Nick Rahall (WV).

When the House voted on a stand alone resolution to proceed with the debate on Wednesday, 173 Democrats (and 4 Republicans) voted NO. Only 15 Democrats voted with the Republicans, a hint about which ones are willing, if not eager, to steal from the poor to give to the rich. Among them are the 4 sleazy New Dem freshmen most likely to lose in 2014: Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Scott Peters (CA), Ron Barber (AZ), and Dan Maffei (NY).

Yesterday, ThinkProgress took a look at some of the biggest congressional recipients of farm welfare for their own businesses-- and how anti-food stamps they are. These are the 4 worst congressional greed dogs (at least on this matter-- along with their excuses for voting to cut nutrition for poor families:

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), who’s gotten over $500,000 in subsidy payments since 1995, is a particularly interesting case. While Noem is diplomatic in most public statements on food stamps, she endorses a common smear of the program when away from cameras. In a constituent letter obtained by ThinkProgress, Noem wrote that “loopholes and fraud in the current program have lead to federal spending on SNAP to increase [sic] by 270 percent over the past ten years.” Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO) offers to same rationale for the cuts, and has taken $500,000 in farm subsidies as well.

In fact, the jump in food stamp enrollment is due almost entirely to the catastrophic economic collapse and ensuing Great Recession. Even amid that heightened strain on the program’s staff, “SNAP achieved its lowest error rates on record in fiscal year 2011,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Outright fraud is down to just one percent.

Waste, fraud, and abuse are more common in the farm subsidies programs that have sent over a million taxpayer dollars to the Hartzler and Noem households over the years than in food stamps. Crop insurance alone has a 4.7 percent error rate, compared to 3.8 percent for SNAP.
The House started voting on the 103 amendments to the bill yesterday. Corrupt shills for AgriBusiness-- like top Ag Committee Republican Frank Lucas (R-OK) and top Democrat on the committee, and ex-Chair, Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)-- are pushing it. Progressives hate it and so does the far right (take a look at the threatening tweet below from neo-fascist Club for Growth fuehrer Chris Chocola), albeit for different reasons. Pelosi is likely to vote against it and Boehner has said he's not crazy about the bill but he'll vote for it. Peterson thinks he can bring a few dozen of the worst right-wing and most corrupt Democrats along in the end. We'll keep you informed.

UPDATE: United Front Of Progressives And Far Right Teabaggers Gives Boehner A Stunning Blow

When the House voted on amendments to the Farm bill this week, the first one that came up was Jim McGovern's amendment to stop the defunding of SNAP. It lost 188-234, 5 Republicans voting with the Democrats but 8 ConservaDems crossing the aisle in the other direction to back the GOP jihad against poor people:
John Barrow (New Dem/Blue Dog-GA)
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Cheri Bustos (IL)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Mike McIntyre (New Dem/Blue Dog-NC)
Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Tim Walz (MN)
Meanwhile, the degrading Richard Hudson (R-NC) amendment to make food stamps applicants undergo drug testing somehow made it into the bill, further alienating Democrats who were thinking about voting for it.

The overall bill failed 195-234, 62 mostly far right Republicans sabotaging their own leadership by voting with 172 Democrats. Only two-dozen of the most corrupt Democrats, mostly New Dems like Patrick Murphy (FL) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Blue Dogs like John Barrow (GA) and Mike McIntyre (NC), stood with Boehner and Cantor to try to pass this monstrosity. Kind of funny seeing drooling sociopaths like Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Paul Broun (R-GA), Trey Radel (R-FL), Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Steve Stockman (R-TX) and, even Paul Ryan (R-WI) leaving Boehner and Cantor hanging while they handed the stunning triumph to Nancy Pelosi. (Boehner and Cantor are blaming Pelosi for their embarrassing defeat and ignoring the 62 Republicans who betrayed him-- or looking at the way their own whip operation collapsed... although Boehner, slightly drunk, had a screaming match with McCarthy, his whip, as the votes were being counted). Cantor went whining to the press:

"I'm extremely disappointed that Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership have at the last minute chosen to derail years of bipartisan work on the Farm Bill and related reforms. This bill was far from perfect, but the only way to achieve meaningful reform, such as Congressman Southerland's amendment reforming the food stamp program, was in conference.

"I strongly supported the Southerland amendment which built on successful welfare reforms that have worked in the past to give states more flexibility and encourage self-sufficiency by increasing workforce participation among those enrolled in the SNAP program. I commend Chairman Frank Lucas and the House Agriculture Committee for their efforts, and am sorry that Democrats shamefully chose politics over progress and meaningful reform."

Chris Van Hollen's retort was, basically, if Pelosi were Speaker this "never would have happened." Pelosi was even more pointed: "The Republicans have the majority of Congress and it's their responsibility to send a bill. What [was] happening on the floor today was a demonstration of major amateur hour. They didn't get results and they put the blame on somebody else."

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At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did you leave out name of richest man who is a democrat who receives Millions? Hello Rockerfeller. Other Democrats get Millions from farm bill not just GOP. This bill is bad corrupt it's a welfare bill. If you want the entire country on foodstamps (80% of this bill is foodstamps) call it what it is a welfare bill this is not a FARM BILL

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet you don't see those rich Dems receiving hundreds of thousands or more and then turning around to deny assistance for the poor (many of whom do work, but their employers decide that paying a living wage might make them miss their Q3 profit estimates by 0.15%). That's the difference.


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