Conservative Republicans have turned the farm bill – normally a bipartisan grotesquerie of agribusiness subsidies and excess – from legislation to identity politics. They wanted to make a statement, even though they knew it couldn’t survive the Senate or the White House veto. They passed it anyway – without one Democratic vote – to proclaim this is who we are.
Who are they? They just passed a farm bill that included about $195 billion in subsidies to “farmers” (read: agribusiness) over 10 years, while eliminating food stamps and nutrition programs from the bill as “extraneous.”
Forty-seven million Americans receive food stamps (now known as SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, benefits). Nearly half are children under 18; nearly 10 percent are impoverished seniors. Food stamps are often the difference between hunger and survival.
Republicans famously seem intent on being a party of white sanctuary, writing off all people of color, yet more whites receive food stamps (over one-third of all recipients) than blacks or Hispanics.
This is how they choose to be identified. They will bring the government to a halt to defend against any tax hikes on millionaires, or to fend off the closing of corporate tax shelters. They will vote in lockstep to take the sequester cuts entirely out of domestic programs – education, clean water, preschool – in order to protect a Pentagon budget that remains the biggest source of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.
And they will lavish subsidies on agribusiness while throwing children and seniors off the bus. Having stripped food stamps out of the farm bill entirely, they did not even have the common decency to pass any kind of food stamp provision separately. They haven’t gotten around to getting a “consensus” on that.
This wasn’t intended as legislation. It was intended as a declaration of identity. This is who they are. Think about that.