“The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person per meal.”
~ Feeding America
In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m one of those bleeding hearts who would rather see my tax dollars used to feed the hungry than to provide corporate welfare and make the rich richer. I’m disappointed in the spending priorities of the 113th U.S. Congress.
I’m also a tad disappointed to write less-than-positively about U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). I’ve known and supported her for many years and I’ve always thought she was unlike other politicians who, once ensconced in Washington, seemed to become more beholden to D.C. lobbyists than to the folks back home.
Sadly, I’m wrong, apparently.
Sure, Senator Stabenow voted to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and expand background checks to include gun show and internet purchases. Yes, she voted to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), voted against the Keystone XL Pipeline project and drilling for oil in the Great Lakes, and is a friend to the LGBT community.
But she also voted to extend the Bush tax cuts and proposed that dirty coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other industrial sources of pollution be exempt from rules requiring them to report greenhouse gas emissions. She opposed enhanced fuel efficiency standards and supported Michigan Senior Senator Carl Levin’s provision allowing for the indefinite military detention of American citizens deemed “terrorists” by the government. And as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she’s supported GMOs and massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, on which millions of low-income families rely.
(See “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! GMOs Have Got to Go!,” March 19, 2013, and “If the Media Don’t Tell Us, We Must Not Need to Know,” May 28, 2013.)
Last year, the U.S. House refused to consider a version of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (aka the “U.S. Farm Bill of 2012”) passed by the Senate because the SNAP program wasn’t sufficiently decimated in the view of that chamber’s heartless pricks. (The SNAP program is a key part of the Farm Bill that’s considered every five years.) I was disappointed then at the degree to which conservative politicians wanted to make life even harder for those already struggling with bare cupboards and empty refrigerators. (The average monthly SNAP benefit in my state last year was just $268.60/household. Anita and I spend that much to feed our six-person family each week.)
I assumed Senator Stabenow would stand firm against slashing SNAP once she was finished dealing with crop insurance reform, commodity crop subsidies, the demands of Big Agriculture and other components of this unwieldy legislation. So politicians kicked the can down the road a bit; now they’re taking up the Farm Bill again. And guess what? The Senate’s considering SNAP spending cuts that would exceed $4 billion over the next ten years. (Click here for a draft of the Senate’s current version.)
I guess my first boss in the Governor’s Office, the late Donna Kauffman, was right when she advised me more than once back in the early 1980s to “Never assume anything.”
One in six Americans doesn’t have enough food to eat. And according to the USDA, more than 17 million children live in food-insecure households. (School lunch programs help but they’re not enough; what about snow days and summers?) It’s shameful that kids are going hungry while the grownups fight about same-sex marriage and climate change.
The older I get, the more I realize that nothing’s black or white. Compromise is essential and it’s impossible for elected officials to please everyone all the time. I get that. But when a politician seemingly abandons his or her core beliefs, develops a hearing problem and displays a newfound tendency to care more for the job than for the constituents, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll respond positively to an e-mail asking for cash like the one Senator Stabenow sent me yesterday.
Click here to read, “Congress' Farm Bill Readies to Kick Poor Off Food Assistance,” May 31, 2013. And click here to read, “Nine Things You Should Know About the New Farm Bill,” May 20, 2013.
Sources: Commondreams.org, Washington Post, MLive.com, Alternet.org, billmoyers.com, Natural Resources Defense Council, Mother Jones, Feeding America, Food Research and Action Center, NonGMOProject.org.