Saturday, July 13, 2013

On Subsidizing Agribusiness and Giving Hungry Folks the Bird

This is one of those posts that are intended to inform more than to persuade. It’s a pretty safe bet that I don’t need to convince “What’s the Diehl?” readers to care about hungry kids more than agribusiness. If you’re a GOP politician, however, it’s a different story.

I’m referring to the fact that conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a farm bill two days ago that included around $195 billion in subsidies for “farmers” (read: agribusiness) over the next decade while eliminating food stamps and nutrition programs completely, calling them “extraneous.”

The bill – which was introduced with a rule allowing no amendments – passed by a vote of 216-208. No Democrats voted for it, while only 12 Republicans voted against it.

What an obscene, blatantly political move.

Republicans know their bill won’t survive the U.S. Senate or a White House veto; they promised a separate vote on food stamp funding “soon.” Isn’t this the same party that always demands “certainty” for business when it comes to tax policy? How come hungry, low-income families aren’t entitled to the same certainty?

It’s questionable whether the two chambers can reconcile their differences and come up with something before current funding runs out in a few weeks.

The bill passed by the Senate back in May included about $4 billion in cuts to food assistance (which I thought at the time was also obscene); if that proposal was a slap in the face for poor people, last Thursday’s move was a huge middle finger to those who are forced to forego medicine and gas and choose between paying the rent/mortgage or putting food on the table.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Senate Agriculture Committee chair whom I used to like a lot, described the House move as “an insult to rural America.” I’m not sure why she focused on rural America – to me, it’s also an insult to urban and suburban residents, anti-poverty advocates, food bank employees and supporters, public policy devotees, parents and anyone else who thinks it’s criminal to let kids go hungry while lining the pockets of corporate agriculture.

Here in my state, food assistance for 1.7 million Michiganders is threatened. The number of people in the U.S. who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has continued to grow; last April, 47.5 million were receiving food benefits worth $132.46/month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (As I’ve shared before, Anita and I spend twice that much to feed our six-person family each week.) That’s about 15 percent of the population, or one in seven Americans. Of those, 47 percent are children under 18 and eight percent are seniors.

Yes, you read that correctly. Almost half of those who depend on food stamps are kids.

Things seem to just keep getting worse and worse. And if this revelation of what today’s Republican Party is all about doesn’t motivate people to go to the polls and boot these callous pricks out of office, I don’t know what will.

Click here to read, “House Republicans Punish Their Own States by Eliminating Food Stamp Program (with chart),” July 12, 2013. Click here to read, “Yes, You Should Be Totally Outraged by the Farm Bill,” July 12, 2013. And click here to read, “Snap to It, Congress! Stop Spending So Much to Feed the Hungry!,” June 1, 2013.

Sources:, Washington Post, Detroit News, The Atlantic.


  1. I became physically ill a few months ago watching a Frontline where a little girl talked into the camer a about what she does to distract herself when she's hungry and they have no food at home. And that's now - before these proposed cuts. I had to tune out when they were taking the family dog to the pound because they couldn't afford to feed it anymore. What kind of people are we becoming?

  2. 'Isn’t this the same party that always demands “certainty” for business when it comes to tax policy? How come hungry, low-income families aren’t entitled to the same certainty?'

    How come? Because they are all hypocritical bigots, cushioned by good salaries and expense accounts and I assume subsidised food and all other kinds of perks the average minimum wage worker could only dream about in the most luscious fantasy.

    The cuts that are now ravaging Britain are the same; attempts to cut the deficit, and attack the most vulnerable at the same time. Whilst most public service workers are taking a 1% pay rise, our glorious MPs are anticipating an 11% pay rise! Hurrah! And they can always find money for rich people who don't need it, but not for people going hungry. It's an insane world we live in sadly.

  3. You act like the GOP wants children to starve. The fact is Both the GOP and DEMS need to stop creating these massive stupid bills full of crap spending. You need to have simple bills with simple language and pass multiple ones. I don't support a farm bill. But I even less support a farm bill that has Food Stamps in it. The whole goal was to have a single bill that just dealt with Food Stamps. But "there you go again" saying that the GOP wants dirty air, dirty water and the children to starve. In the end, just pass a bill that is just Food Stamps. Why isn't that in your "piece".