Who says Congress can't do anything? Why just last week, the House voted to kill food stamps (SNAP). Well, it wasn't quite that straightforward but it's heading in that direction.
The first vote on the farm bill (which is due for its every five-year renewal) failed because 60 Republicans did not think the $20 billion cut to SNAP the bill contained was enough. So Oklahoma Republican Frank Lucas just lopped off the entire program. Then the bill passed along party-line vote.
Even if they are becoming a little ragged, there are good, historical reasons that the agricultural/farm program has always been married to the food stamp nutritional program. (Look it up; it's not salient to today's post.)
But after this vote, the future of SNAP which currently provides food assistance to 47.6 million Americans including about 10 million impoverished elders, is extremely unclear:
”When asked about what Republicans were planning on doing with the program, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters, 'We’ll get to that later.'”
Uh-huh - like all those other things the House will get to later.
The average SNAP payment is only $132 a month, equal to $4.25 a day which doesn't seem like much but it keeps a lot of people from starving and is one of our most vital safety net programs.
When SNAP elimination is coupled with the cuts to Meals on Wheels that Congress allowed to happen earlier this year, many more old people will go hungry. Here is a little infographic about the cuts to Meals on Wheels – click on it for a larger image [pdf]:
The House agricultural bill with the missing SNAP will go to the Senate later this month where it is expected to fail. The Senate has proposed only modest cuts to SNAP (bad enough) and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the measure if it does not contain support for food stamps.
What's going to happen is too ambiguous right now to know anything specific.
Meanwhile, commentators and pundits have been rightly asking what is wrong with Republicans. Actually, they have been doing more than that. They are screaming bloody murder at the moral awfulness of the GOP.
”There really isn’t any other word. Congressional Republicans are simply appalling,” writes Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post...
“Republicans just passed a farm bill. It lards out $195 billion in subsidies for agribusiness. At the same time, they chose to drop food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — from the bill for the first time in 40 years.
“In this time of mass unemployment, 47 million Americans rely on food stamps. Nearly one-half are children under 18; nearly 10 percent are impoverished seniors...
“Now,” writes vanden Heuvel, “it looks like the 'stupid' wing of the Republican Party has taken over. Our nation suffers as a result.“
Last Monday in a column appropriately titled Hunger Games U.S.A. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman minced no words at all: “Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party,” he began.
After explaining that the farm bill passed by Republicans in the House kills the SNAP program while increasing boondoggle subsidies to giant agribusiness, Krugman tells us what he really thinks:
”So what’s going on here? Is it just racism? No doubt the old racist canards — like Ronald Reagan’s image of the 'strapping young buck' using food stamps to buy a T-bone steak — still have some traction.
“But these days almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites; in Tennessee, home of the Bible-quoting [Representative Stephen] Fincher, the number is 63 percent. So it’s not all about race...
“What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC’s Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called 'losers.'
“If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold."
Yes it is - a dreadful thing to behold. And food is only a small part of it. In dozens of other bills, Congress or, rather, mostly the Republicans in Congress are plenty busy kicking everyone in the U.S. to the curb except their patrons - the wealthy and well-connected.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: America the Loveless
Ronni here again: Oh dear. I did not intend today's post to match so closely with today's Elder Storytelling Place story. It just turned out that way.