Last week, we saw the full measure of Republican cruelty. Discarding decades of precedent, the House GOP stripped the nation’s food stamp program from the farm bill, with the unambiguous intent of depriving poor Americans of basic sustenance.
The food stamp program provides 47.8 million Americans — one in every seven — an average of about $133 per month to help buy groceries. That’s $4.43 per day — a pittance. The total cost of the program is a modest $80 billion per year, out of a total federal budget of $3.8 trillion. Enrollment has increased 70 percent between 2006 and 2011, during which time the unemployment rate increased 97 percent. Cause and effect is pretty clear.
Republicans would have us believe that they’re merely looking out for the interests of taxpayers. Yet the House’s farm bill is a veritable smorgasbord of free cash for big agricultural interests.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, cuts to the deficit in the House bill are smaller than those in the Senate bill — which preserved food assistance for the poor — and far smaller than the $37.8 billion cut in President Obama’s budget. In addition, the bill removes the typical five-year expiration for subsidies, making them permanent. “It is a staggering bait-and-switch that will bury taxpayers under billions of subsidies in perpetuity,” said Steve Ellis of the conservative Taxpayers for Common Sense.
And this isn’t money spent on needy farmers. A quarter of federal subsidies go to just 4 percent of agribusinesses, as the family farm continues to become a relic of the past. While Republicans demand means testing for social net programs, the wealthiest agricultural businesses are plied with free money, regardless of need. The bulk of subsidies are spent on grains, oilseeds and cotton, not healthy fruits and vegetables. A new Price Loss Coverage program guarantees agribusinesses 85 percent of the revenue they recei