Tea Party Congressman Turns Out To Be Hypocritical Government Moocher
It is true that the supplemental nutrition program (SNAP) for low-income Americans (including veterans, senior citizens and children) is a huge chunk (80%) of the federal Farm Bill, with a cost of about $80 billion per year. It is also true that the program serves about 47.5 million Americans and has grown rapidly since late 2007. Also true: this is aid to vulnerable people genuinely in need, despite being employed. The increase in program participation since December 2007 is primarily a reflection of the economy, and program costs will shrink as the economy improves. Over all, SNAP is a highly efficient program with little waste or fraud.
All of which makes it a perfect target for Farm Bill budget savings, right? Of course not, you say, farm income is at record levels! Naturally, the sensible thing to do is to cut farm subsidies for the largest and most successful farms, and keep crucial safety net programs like SNAP in place. You bleeding heart, you — things aren’t that simple.
Both the House and Senate bills would increase crop insurance subsidies – by $9 billion and $4 billion, respectively – and cut nutrition and conservation spending: by $25 billion in the House version and by $8 billion in the Senate’s.
The House bill cuts nutrition spending alone by more than $20 billion, which would push about 2 million poor Americans out of feeding assistance programs.
One brave GOP congressman, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) issued an astoundingly hypocritical defense of the cuts, by quoting the Bible:
The one unwilling to work will not eat.
This, despite the fact that, as Center for Budget and Policy Priorities research confirms, “most SNAP recipients who can work do work, and that SNAP rules both encourage and reward work.” But Fincher goes on…
We are all here on this committee making decisions about other people’s money. We have to remember there is not a big printing press in Washington that continually prints money over and over. This is other people’s money that Washington is appropriating and spending.
We represent the people’s money and we have to be good stewards of that.
Ah, yes…the people’s money. Funny, but Fincher wasn’t so concerned with the people’s money when he personally “received a whopping $3.4 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies from 1999 to 2011.” (Yes. Averaging over $280,000 per year, even once he joined Congress. — The average SNAP payment last year was less than $134 per month.)
If being on the receiving end of that kind of public largess seems a bad fit with the Tea Party wave he rode in on, it’s been questioned before. When he was still a candidate for office in 2010, Fincher and his campaign promised to change the farm subsidy regime:
“The farm subsidy program is something that was put into place over 60 years ago and it was put into place to do one thing and it’s turned into something else,” Fincher added. “Do we need farm program reform? Absolutely.” – The Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 6, 2010.
He [Fincher] said he plans on working to reform the program if he is elected and that he has the knowledge and will to do it. – Jackson Sun, June 20, 2010.
Matt McCullough, a senior adviser to the Fincher campaign, e-mailed a statement.
“Stephen’s never had a chance to vote on the farm program. He’s committed to reform of the farm program, including subsidies, but knows the Washington culture must itself be changed.” Jackson Sun, June 6, 2010.
Since joining Congress, Fincher has made no attempt to cut or reform farm subsidies; and when he finally got a chance to vote, he chose to increase federal crop insurance subsidies. How’s that for integrity?
Maybe Rep. Ann Kuster (D- NH) summed it up best:
You are asking me to spend billions of dollars on direct aid, on commodities and on corporations that get wealthier and wealthier and wealthier and you are asking me whether we can’t afford as a nation to feed starving children $1.32 per meal.
And lest you think reforming crop insurance subsidies would hurt our food industry and put small family farmers out of business, that’s not the case. A reasonable system would have income limits on which farms qualify for subsidies. The current system has none. There is also no limit on the amount they can receive. “As a result, 26 policyholders received more than $1 million apiece in crop insurance premium support in 2011, and more than 10,000 policyholders received more than $100,000 each.” Meanwhile, the bottom 80% of farmers receive about $5,000 each.
Hate to have to point it out yet again, but this is a system rigged by the wealthy, for the wealthy.