The Tea Party really hates poor people (i.e., more farm bill)

So, I wrote my recent farm bill posting rather hastily and quickly took the NYT account of things (which was basically the GOP in its own words) rather than dig a little further.  I was quickly emailed by a friend who we’ll just say really knows the workings of Congress to tell me how wrong I was.  My friend’s email was a good explanation of all this, but even better, was Jon Chait’s post on the matter today.  The Tea Party Republicans didn’t reject the farm bill because of agricultural subsidies, but because it didn’t cut enough from the mouths of hungry Americans.  Chait:

Basically, there is no reason at all for the government to single out farmers for special support, as opposed to any other kind of business owners. If I were looking to cut domestic spending, or even if I weren’t, farm subsidies would be the first thing to go, the most unjustifiable government program of any significant size…

Unfortunately, even though congressional Republicans are looking to cut domestic spending, most of them regard agriculture subsidies as an especially meritorious program, not an especially awful one. Some of them want to cut it deeply or even do away with it, but not enough. And the main dynamic that prevents reform, and the reason the farm bill ultimately went down on the House floor today, is that the conservatives who do want to cut agriculture subsidies will only do it if they can also kick the living crap out of the poor.

Agriculture subsidies have traditionally been bundled together with food stamps, in order to create a legislative coalition. (Farmers like the fact that food stamps mean more people can buy their food.) But in recent years, conservatives have gone from tolerating food stamps to absolutely loathing them. This year, House Republicans have attached to their farm bill deep cuts in food stamps…

And the Republican cuts to food stamps are just mean (and stupid).  It’s almost like an Onion parody of political cruelty:

The House farm bill imposes enormous food-stamp cuts, many of them in the form of staggeringly punitive conditions. It would cut off for eligibility, for instance, anybody with even a few thousand dollars of assets, including a modest car, which would force some families to choose between a vehicle they may need to get to and from work and food stamps. It would deny food stamps to anybodyever convicted of a violent crime, even decades before. That state of affairs being considered not punitive enough, the House voted the other day to let states deny food stamps to the unemployed — which is to say, you lose your job, and your family also loses the thing that lets it keep eating. That latter amendment carried the support of all but six House Republicans, including Paul Ryan, most recently seen trying to rebrand himself as a Kemp-style bleeding-heart lover of the poor.

Now, of course money is fungible and poor people can eventually use their food stamps to enable them to get crack, a new microwave, or HBO, but the program is nonetheless designed as a food program for people who cannot afford to buy enough food to eat.  Of all the programs for the poor to single out to cut, this is the least morally justifiable.  Occam’s razor: Republicans hate poor people.

More trash for you (to help your kids)

It is really and truly amazing the lengths the NC legislature will go to in order to serve their corporate masters.  In this case, “big trash.”  Here’s the latest on landfills:

RALEIGH, N.C. — The state Senate on Thursday gave key approval to legislation that would roll back restrictions on landfills in North Carolina.

Senate Bill 328 passed its second reading 28-18. A final vote is expected next week before it heads to the House.

The measure would allow landfills 1,500 feet away from National Wildlife Refuges or state parks instead of the current buffer of 2 to 5 miles and would drastically limit the statutory reasons for which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources could refuse to issue a permit for one.

It also would relax requirements that owners regularly inspect and clean systems that capture leachate, the liquid that comes out of their landfills, and would repeal the requirement that operators have a fund of at least $2 million to pay for fines or corrective action in case of contamination.

Current laws requiring garbage trucks to be leak-proof also would be replaced with rules that they only be leak-resistant.  [emphasis mine]

Classic example of those “pesky” regulations that Republicans are always looking to get rid of.  Crazy liberals wanting garbage trucks to be leak-proof, landfills tested for dangerous leaks, and reasonable buffers between wildlife and landfills.  I mean come on, what will liberals want next– clear air and water?

Best part?  Republicans are doing this “for the children”

Sponsor Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, said no landfills have been sited in North Carolina in years, and existing landfills will run out of space in an average of 15 to 20 years.

“This is an attempt to look toward the future and make preparations for our children,” Wade said.

This legislation is obviously bad enough.  But justifying it that it’s for the children.  Truly, truly shameless.

Farm Bill (and the nature of fraud)

I haven’t paid much attention to the Farm Bill.  Basically I know that is an amazingly inefficient boondoggle, but that we’re pretty much stuck with it.  What I had not realized is that is also a source of food welfare for poor people.  And Republicans are having none of that.  Yglesias:

Take a minute if you will to savor the gory details of the farm bill the U.S. House of Representatives is passing this year. It sharply cuts the SNAP program that gives money to poor people so they can buy food but preserves ample funds to subsidize American farmers.

There’s not a ton to be said about this, but suffice it to say that farmers have higher incomes than the average American while SNAP recipients have lower incomes than the average American. So basically instead of having the federal government redistribute income to the poor, the House farm bill will redistribute tax dollars to the wealthy. It’s outrageous.

Yep, though as it turns out the House failed to pass the bill yesterday because Democrats who rejected the SNAP cuts were joined by Conservative Republicans (presumably from non-agricultural areas) who actually seemed to have rejected government money going to rich farmers.  

That said, I get so tired of this kind of stupid, stupid rhetoric from Republicans:

But some Republicans countered that the cuts and other changes to the program were about fraud, not about cutting off people who really need food assistance.

“We don’t want people gaming the system,” said Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa. Mr. King said he had heard of cases in which tattoo parlors advertise that they take food stamps as payment, and another of a person bailing himself out of jail using his food stamps benefits card. Agriculture Department officials say those cases are unlikely because stores that take the benefits have to be approved by the agency.

When you have programs with human beings you will have fraud.  Period.  Of course we should always try to reduce fraud where possible (but certainly not by spending more on enforcement costs than the cost of the fraud), but this universal excuse of “oh, we’re not cutting needed government programs, just fraud” is breathtakingly intellectually dishonest.  

Until we are a nation of cyborgs, there will be fraud in all government programs.  You can take the view of a liberal and hope to limit the fraud, but accept that it is a necessary cost of helping the genuinely needy or you can be a conservative and decide that fraud is so awful that you will under go the cost of truly legitimately needy not getting the help they need.  Those are you two choices.  That’s it.  I know which I pick.  

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