Congress has grown increasingly concerned about spending for the food stamp program. Some 26 million Americans received the aid in 2007, while more than 44 million received it last year, at a cost of $76 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimated recently that demand will continue to grow through 2014 in the wake of the recession. [...] Gillibrand had hoped to prevent food aid cuts in the $969 billion bill by trimming the guaranteed profit for crop insurance companies from 14 to 12 percent and by lowering payments for crop insurers from $1.3 billion to $825 million. – Huffington Post
HONEST TO GOD, when Sen. Scott Brown is more compassionately progressive than Al Franken, Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin, and including Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who also happens to chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, you know special interests have strangled the Democratic Party so thoroughly that the tilt to the right has now gone into a full fledged swoon.
There are a lot of people who cover Congress relentlessly, so I don’t often remark on what happens, unless it’s foreign policy related, but this one required mentioning, especially since Democrats are hiding behind “fraud and abuse,” to see if they can out Republican the Republicans to cut people’s food stamps.
What this means is that people on food stamps will lose $90 a month. The House’s version is far worse, so who knows where the poor will end up when it’s over. If you’re interested in the non-punitive portions of the Farm Bill see David Dayen from yesterday, whom I’ll quote, because he already wrote what needs to be said:
The bigger problem is that the safety net is fraying, and with the demise of welfare, food stamps has become one of the few channels to deliver benefits to incredibly needy populations. Food stamps also happen to have a large multiplier, since all of the money gets cycled into the economy. And it happens to have an infinitesimally low error rate, so playing up implied fraud is not only damaging, it’s wrong.
From Huffington Post from Tuesday:
“We all here in this chamber take the ability to feed our children for granted. That is not the case for too many families in America,” Gillibrand said just before the vote. “Put yourselves for just a moment in their shoes. Imagine being a parent who cannot feed your children the food they need to grow. It’s beneath this body to cut food assistance for those who are struggling the most among us.”
The cuts target the so-called heat-and-eat initiative in which 14 states automatically make families eligible for more food aid if they receive even $1 in help paying their utility bills. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the decrease would amount to about $90 a month for an affected family, representing a quarter of its food budget.
“Half of the food stamp beneficiaries are children, 17 percent are seniors, and unfortunately now 1.5 million households are veteran households that are receiving food stamps,” Gillibrand said, referring not just to heat-and-eat participants, but the broader population of food stamp recipients.
Democrats sided with Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose philosophy is classic Republicanism now being embraced by the Democratic Party.
“Is our national goal to place as many people on welfare, food stamp support, as we can possibly put on that program?” Sessions said of Gillibrand’s amendment. “Is that our goal? Is that a moral vision for the United States of America, just to see how many people we can place in a situation where they’re dependent on the federal government for their food? I just ask that. I think we should wrestle with that question.” [Huffington Post]
I expect this of Republicans, but now Democrats are embracing the right-wing bootstraps philosophy, which helps narrow the difference between the parties once again on things that matter to people.
Buy another weapons system, drop another drone, but may the gods forever shun the largess of helping the poor.
I’d replace any of the Democrats voting against this bill with idiot pretty boy John Edwards right about now, no matter how many broads he’s bedded. He at least understood the “Two America” reality and wasn’t afraid to campaign on it, his doggism notwithstanding.
If Sen. Gillibrand is your senator, take a moment to say thank you. She played heroine on this one for people who have no voice and few who care.
Update: More here.