Congress is gearing up to pass a major farm bill for the first time since 2008, and this year’s bill threatens to be much larger than the last one.
During the House Agriculture Committee’s debate over a new farm bill, Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher cited 2 Thessalonians 3:10 in defending relatively small cuts in food stamps after Rep. Juan Vargas’s (D-CA) cited Jesus’s call to feed the hungry:
Debate on the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the next farm bill will begin in the Republican-controlled chamber in June. One of the most contentious issues will be spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a.k.a, food stamps). The House Ag bill would cut SNAP spending by $20.5 billion over 10 years versus the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline. That’s too much for Democrats and it might be too little for conservative Republicans.
Last week, the Senate accepted by unanimous consent an amendment to the pending farm bill that would ban convicted murderers, rapists, and pedophiles from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (a.k.a. food stamps). Introduced by Louisiana Republican David Vitter, the amendment has received condemnation from the left and at least one round of applause on the right.
The federal food stamp program—now called SNAP—is attracting a lot of media coverage. One reason for thus is that the program’s costs have exploded—spending more than quadrupled during the Bush-Obama years to $82 billion in 2013 (see here and here p. 16). The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations all took steps to loosen the purse strings on food stamp eligibility, and those changes have led to the ballooning costs of recent years during the stagnant economy.
Republicans are jumping on the news that participation in the food stamps program hit a new record of 46.7 million individuals in June (about one in seven Americans). In a sluggish economy, an increase in food stamps participation is to be expected. Thus, it’s fair to hold up the increase in food stamps usage as being emblematic of the Obama administration’s failed economic policies. In addition, the president’s 2009 “stimulus” bill increased benefits and eligibility.
The Senate passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill last week that would maintain the farming industry’s dependency on taxpayers and keep food stamp spending at permanently elevated levels. Although the bill’s supporters claim that it amounts to major “reform,” the reality is that it’s just bipartisan big government business-as-usual.
Newt Gingrich had fun calling President Obama the “food stamp president,” but many Republicans are just as responsible for the exploding costs of this welfare state program.
A new policy paper from my colleague Michael Tanner analyzes the growth in the American welfare state and concludes that “throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty nor made the poor self-sufficient.” Michael makes an important point that—in my experience—most journalists don’t seem to appreciate: