Believe it or not, Democratic leaders are willing to compromise with th GOP majority in a move to cut more than $20 billion from the food stamp program (now known as SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.) This is on top of the $4 billion cut already approved by the Senate. Those upper-crust Dems certainly saved the day, given that Tea Party sweetheart Rand Paul had hoped to destroy the food stamp program altogether.
If snatching food from the mouths of children is what it takes to ram another agribusiness-subsidizing, corporate welfare farm bill through Congress, then so be it. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has reportedly signalled her willingness to whip her caucus into a balanced approach to cruelty, in order to meet the GOP Hate Machine halfway. Hungry people will be put on the table rather than having enough food on their table.
Meanwhile, about 400,000 tons of refined sugar will continue to be subsidized by taxpayers. The politicians must reckon it'll help the austerity medicine go down, or something. Who knows what they're thinking, or even if they're thinking at all.
And in order to sweeten the deal with the Republican nihilists even further, Democrats are also willing to decouple home heating assistance from food stamp approvals, thus forcing applicants to jump through more hoops to qualify for both programs. (currently, acceptance in one program automatically enrolls you in the other.) This will steer more federal dollars away from the poor, because fewer people will even realize that they're qualified for both programs.
Putting one over on struggling people is, unbelievably, giving our supposedly liberal politicians deficit bragging rights.That the austerity prescription has now proven to be snake oil for economic growth is a moot point, because the sadism is not only addictive, it has a long half-life. It produces a toxin that is very slow to excrete from the collective political brain, be it Democrat or Republican.
And so it is that Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), considers it "indefensible" that some of his fellow Democrats selfishly don't want to cut "even a penny" of SNAP benefits during this time of record unemployment and underemployment and wage stagnation. "I think that's a ridiculous position," he peevishly snapped at a press conference on Friday.
Very silly indeed, when you take a look at some of Peterson's campaign contributions in the past year: (source: Center for Responsive Politics.)
|American Farm Bureau||$17,500||$0||$17,500|
|National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn||$12,500||$0||$12,500|
|American Crystal Sugar||$12,000||$2,000||$10,000|
Top 5 Industries, 2011-2012, Campaign Cmte
|Crop Production & Basic Processing||$207,818||$53,986||$153,832|
|Food Processing & Sales||$47,500||$1,000||$46,500|
|Forestry & Forest Products||$34,500||$0||$34,500|
When you consider that the Farm Bill is worth $940 billion, those campaign contributors to Rep. Peterson are certainly getting a lot of bang for their relatively puny bucks, wouldn't you say? I mean, only $12,000 from a sugar company that stands to share in an $80 millionbailout from the American taxpayer? Sweet. (sorry, I couldn't help it)
Meanwhile, from the Feeding America public policy group, here are the grim statistics which show that cutting "even a penny" from SNAP will cause a world of pain for the struggling people who depend on it:
76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.
SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).
The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744; net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.
It's pretty despicable that Pelosi and the Democrats are negotiating any food stamp cuts at all, given that sequestration has already threatened the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC) and other anti-poverty programs. And, the fact that so many liberal politicians and celebrities have taken what's called the "food stamp challenge" and discovered that it's very hard to survive on an average $30 weekly grocery stipend, makes it downright stupefying that they are not demanding that benefits be increased. Most people run out of SNAP benefits by the third week of every month. They go hungry, or if they're lucky enough to live near a food bank or soup kitchen that hasn't closed, they avail themselves of that shredding safety net as well.
The stupefaction doesn't end with both parties merely bickering over whether people should literally starve, or simply go on a starvation diet.
Here is a scandal the corporate media are not talking about: JP Morgan Chase, which administers the EBT card program for SNAP recipients in some states, is just one of the corporations mightily profiting from the poverty of others. CEO Jamie Dimon even has the chutzpah to charge a quarter every time clients check their dwindling balances, making sure there's enough money left in Week Three for a quart of milk for the kids. In New York State alone, this too-big-to-fail/jail bank was awarded more than $125 million for handling SNAP debit cards. In Montana, for some strange reason, defense contractor Northrup Grumman was awarded the debit card food stamp contract. If I were a betting woman, I'd wager that some level of bribery was at play in order to magically transform a defense contractor into a safety net facilitator.
Naturally, not one politician is suggesting that these profiteers of penury take a cut of their own. And that's the unkindest cut of all.