Whenever Republicans attempt to cut spending for some social welfare program or another, Democrats are quick to claim that it is not unaffordable spending that the Republicans dislike, but poor people. By passing the farm bill this week — after stripping out spending for the food stamp program — House Republicans showed that that stereotype is largely true.
The “new” farm bill (with food stamps jettisoned because “conservatives” object to what they see as lavish welfare spending) passed the House today on strictly partisan terms, 216-208 (roll call), with a mere 12 brave Republicans voting no.
It appears that I spoke too soon. According to a news article from Chris Clayton, one of America’s best agriculture reporters, the new House farm bill, due to be voted on today, will not necessarily be the gift to reformers I thought it might. The key paragraph of Chris’s story:
The Roll Call blog has just broken news that the GOP House leadership has decided to drop food stamps from the farm bill, in an attempt to get the farm subsidies passed by the House, presumably with Republican votes alone. Nutrition is quite an “appendage” to jettison, by the way: it usually accounts for about 80 percent of all “farm bill” spending. Here’s a great infographic on food stamp usage from the Wall Street Journal online.
It has become a set piece of political theater for liberal Democrats, carried out in recent weeks by everyone from New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner to Connecticut senator Chris Murphy and a bevy of congressmen: attempting to eat on the $4.50-per-day food budget supposedly provided by the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program formerly known as “food stamps.” While always good for a headline, and generally accompanied by amusing photographs of the bizarre meals the politicians cobble together on their meager budget, the so-called SNAP challenge is also arrant nonsense.
A miracle happened in Washington last week. Legislators failed in their attempt to mulct the public.
It’s a good thing that the farm bill failed to pass the House, but it is disturbing that about three-quarters of Republicans voted in favor of this massive spending bill. The House bill would have spent 47 percent more over 10 years than the 2008 farm bill ($940 billion vs. $640 billion). Most of the spending is for food stamps, so GOP farm bill supporters would have essentially ratified the recent huge spending increases on this welfare program.
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.
It’s widely accepted that George W. Bush was a big-spending president. He was a social conservative, but not a fiscal one. To his credit, however, even Bush recognized how wasteful and unfair farm subsidies are, and he vetoed the last major farm bill in 2008.
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed a farm bill with a projected price tag of $955 billion over ten years. As my colleague Sallie James explains, neither the Senate farm bill nor the House version offer up much in the way of real “reform.” And as Chris Edwards notes, both the Senate and House versions would spend more than the previous farm bill.