You might think that even Republicans – some anyway – couldn’t stomach the merciless attack on food stamps proposed in the House of Representatives. The 2013 Farm Bill, which was defeated in a stunning upset yesterday, included a $2 billion reduction in the Farm Bill’s annual allocation for food stamps – and, adding insult to hunger, it would have let states force the program’s beneficiaries to work for their rations.
Shockingly, some Democrats – 24 of them – supported the vicious bill, while 62 Republicans balked.
But I doubt any of the dissenting Republican representatives were moved by pity for the poor. Indeed, some Republicans argued the food-stamp cuts weren’t deep enough.
Opposition to the massive farm bill, which proposed spending half a trillion dollars over the next five years, came from many different directions, including both right and left. The Black Caucus, for example, cheered the bill’s defeat because of its attack on food stamps and a last-minute amendment by Florida’s Steve Southerland to make recipients work in exchange for their food. On the other side of the issue, some conservatives – such as the Koch Brothers-funded group, Americans for Prosperity- opposed the bill’s generous subsidies to agribusiness interests.
Meanwhile, the Senate has passed its version of the Farm Bill with bipartisan support, and I, for one, am not cheering. While the bill is far less vicious than the version defeated in the Republican controlled House, it is a disappointing indictment of the Democrats who control the Senate. The $500 billion, five-year bill would cut $4 billion over a decade from food stamps at a time when a record number of Americans — 47.8 million as of December 2012 — rely on the program.
The Senate bill, which passed by a 66-27 vote, must be meshed with a House version to become law, and you can bet the farm that the final legislation – if the House is able to pass anything – will include even deeper cuts to programs that feed the poor.
Another sure bet is that it will provide generous tax subsidies and crop insurance for millionaires and global corporations involved in corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, sugar, dairy products and other forms of agribusiness. (Some of the lucky “farmers” who received subsidies don’t even live in America, I understand.)
This is not your father’s America. We live in an ugly time, when compassion and decency are shoved aside to accommodate the avarice of the mighty, who have wrested control of the government from the hands of ordinary voters like you and me.