Thursday, July 05, 2012

House Agriculture Committee to propose deep cuts to SNAP

In contrast with the medium-sized cuts to SNAP proposed by the Senate (see earlier post), the House Agriculture Committee today proposed deep cuts.

"Do Republicans in Congress want to fix the food stamp program — or punish it?," asks David Rogers at Politico:
That’s the question facing the House Agriculture Committee leadership as it rolls out its plan this week to cut farm subsidies together with about $16 billion in 10-year savings from food stamps — also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The Politico account portrays House Agriculture Committee chair Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) as a relative moderate, compared to House leadership that almost appears to want to sink Farm Bill legislation for the year.

The story quotes Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) to illustrate some Republicans' animosity toward the nation's most important anti-hunger program:
“Americans, working Americans, the middle income and low-income working Americans — they are out there doing the best they can and struggling — are sick and tired of watching the abuses of the system,” Scott said. “I just want to say this one more time. You can’t feed the hungry by starving the farmer.”
"Starving the farmer" is quite some rhetoric. Net farm income this year is $91.7 billion, the second highest on record in nominal terms. For the commercial farm households who receive the highest level of subsidy, average farm income in 2010 (the most recent year available) was $135,000 and average household income was $185,000.  The many farmers who are "starving," relatively speaking, get much lower subsidies.

I am surprised that the politics of this works out well for the House Republicans. If the point is to protect farm programs and taxpayers by sticking it to poor people, it would still seem necessary to craft a bill that actually can pass. Tom Laskawy writes at Grist:
I would argue that the cuts to food stamps will be a non-starter for numerous House Democrats — many of whose votes will be needed to pass the bill, probably ending hopes for a new farm bill before the election.
Picking a no-holds-barred brawl with the Senate, leading to the bill's failure this year, drawing the wider public's scrutiny to farm policy, seems likely to harm the constituencies of rural and urban legislators alike.  But perhaps they see something I don't.

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