This week Democrat House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer announced that the House would probably agree to $9 billion in further SNAP cuts in conference negotiations between House and Senate versions of 2014 Farm Bill. Food Stamp cuts are one of the major bones of contention, as Dems wanted a mere $4 billion in cuts, Republicans want $39 billion in cuts. (Couldn’t get this photo embedded, sorry.)
This comes, of course, as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty. Hoyer’s cave also came within a week of Barack Obama having cynically touted his own populist message, saying, ““One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives,” said President Obama. “Think about that. This is not an isolated situation.… That’s why we have nutrition assistance or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who’s working, but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids.” He will pay no price for massive poverty, hunger, or homeless numbers, although his fellow Democrats running for office just might (and good!). But the hungriest among us will suffer even more mightily than they are now.
On the Senate side, Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, had already signaled that she could accept $8 or $9 billion in cuts, although she claims that she’s a staunch defender of the hungry against brutal Republican suggested cuts. She’s defending her position as $4-billion less draconian than it is by maintaining that $4 billions in ‘savings’ are included in the proposal. What are those ‘savings’?
They would come by tweaking the rules whereby fourteen states have opted into programs that use Low Income Heating Assistance Plans as automatic qualification for food stamps. When the program was originally designed, applicants could qualify if they received just $1 in LIHEAP heating funds; in conference, that amount increases to a $20 bar, likely cutting many poor people out of the program that was designed to partially address the painful choice for many as to whether they paid their heating bills or…feed themselves or their families.
Adding insult to injury, from the Nation:
‘There are currently 47 million Americans who turn to food stamps to help make ends meet. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), nearly 72 percent are in families with children; and one-quarter of SNAP participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. Further, 91 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line, and 55 percent to households below half of the poverty line (about $9,500 annually for a family of three).
Despite the fact that the Institute of Medicine demonstrated the inadequacy of the SNAP benefit allotment, and that a child’s access to food stamps has a positive impact on adult outcomes, the program was just cut by $5 billion on November 1. The average benefit dropped from $1.50 to $1.40 per meal. The Senate Agriculture Committee’s previous proposal to cut yet another $4 billion from SNAP would have led to 500,000 losing $90 per month in benefits, the equivalent of one week’s worth of meals.
“That was the first time in history that a Democratic-controlled Senate had even proposed cutting the SNAP program,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “The willingness of some Senate Democrats to double new cuts to the program…is unthinkable.”
The additional cuts would seem likely to mean that the average meal benefit would drop to about $1.30 per meal, if my math is right. Nancy Pelosi seems ready to yield to the cuts since she really believes that it’s ‘very important that we get a farm bill’. She is eager to see whassup in the secret negotiations.
But hell, yeah, they’re all eager for ‘a Farm Bill’. The cuts to SNAP are cruel and unusual enough in themselves, but placed into the context of a trillion dollar Farm Bill, it passes into Maximum Outrage territory.
From Taxpayers for Common Sense’ s ‘Put the Brakes on the Bloated Farm Bill’:
‘This week, we’ve heard a variety of voices suggest that one of the top priorities for Congress this month should be to pass a farm bill. Let’s be clear: Given the many things Congress must and should address, passing a horribly flawed, wasteful, trillion-dollar farm bill full of corporate welfare is not among them. Both the House and the Senate passed large, expensive, nearly trillion dollar bills that added more wasteful spending in the name of saving pennies on the dollar. However, the two chambers have so far failed to marry differences between the two pieces of legislation on such controversial topics as: how much food stamps should be cut; whether Soviet-on-the-Potomac price supports should be resurrected or not; how the dairy sector will be propped up by the federal government; how many catfish inspection offices taxpayers should support; and how to “save money” while increasing subsidies for one of the most profitable sectors of our economy.’
And all the while, farm lobbyists are complaining that the sector can’t do business without the clarity and certainly of a new farm bill. But even in this “uncertain” legislative climate, America’s agriculture sector has been doing just fine, thank you very much. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 2013 farm profits will once again set a new record of $131 billion, despite Congress’ failure to renew the farm bill on time. This sense of urgency that we need a farm bill is false, as evidenced by the status of the major programs that continue regardless of whether a new farm bill is passed or not.
Crop insurance, a program that provides a kind of profit protection at the expense of taxpayers that no other industry enjoys, makes unlimited payouts to farmers who earn profits, but just profits that are a little lower than expected. Crop insurance is now the largest corporate agriculture subsidy. This program is already permanent law, meaning subsidies for agribusinesses and crop insurance companies will continue in perpetuity unless Congress repeals them. The only urgency that should exist is to shrink the program and make it more accountable, transparent, cost-effective and responsive to modern farming practices, rather than expanding it and make it less accountable, as the bills passed by both the House and Senate did.’
Ryan Alexander, writing for the group, also believes that it would be better for everyone if the agriculture and nutrition safety nets were divided from each other. He explains more about the Ag subsidies paid for with our tax dollars.
So why are Pelosi and many other Critters so high on getting this trillion dollar farm bill passed? Oh, yes. Because Big Ag lobbyists. Some might call them all grifters; I couldn’t possibly comment on that. We all love the smell of pragmatism in the morning…
In April, Ag Secretary advised us of some stellar community partnerships the department had enabled, as well as this: ‘USDA provides shopping strategies and meal planning advice to help families serve more nutritious meals affordably through its 10-Tips Nutrition Series and the Thrifty Food Plan.’
I haven’t clicked into the pdf, but it’s not hard to imagine the recipes such as ‘Braised Canned Catfood’, or ‘Dry Kibble Baked with Shelf-stable Commodity Cheese Food’, or ‘Boxed Mac-and-Cheese with Fresh Parsley Sprig’. As Congress considers the cuts, from the Guardian comes: ‘US doctors warn Congress cutting food stamps could mean higher medical bills’: Among health risks of hunger cited are spiked rates of diabetes; Warning comes as work under way on compromise farm bill’
On a slightly more positive note, neither version of the pending bill seem to include the Monsanto Rider or Amendment, and as far I could discover, it had also been removed from the last continuing resolution. Whether of not it will be added in ‘secret’ in conference is another matter. But our voices may have been heard when so many of us objected loudly to our representatives last time.
In a related photo-op, refreshing in its pragmatic honesty are a few Senators (and a few seniors they jacked for the occasion) begging and pleading with Lord Obomba to pull back his cuts to Social Security. Why? Because Midterms, that’s why. Ah; we all love the smell of pragmatism in the morning…
The Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Thursday that there are an estimated 610,042 homeless people in the U.S; experts think that the estimate is far too low for many reasons. HUD says the number has dropped since 2010.
You might want to call your Critters, and say ‘Basta! Enough! Too Much!’ and also remind them that ‘It’s in the shelter of each other that The People live’, and that they are supposed to be working on behalf of The People, not the Financial Class. You might also remind them too many storm clouds are surrounding us, and they know that that’s not a good thing for them, either.
(cross-posted at My.firedoglake.com)