The ongoing congressional debate over the Farm Bill has made clear just how eager Republicans are to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, the program formerly known as food stamps). Despite high unemployment, a Senate committee approved striking $4.1 billion from the program over 10 years – and the House GOP is looking for cuts five times as large.
Helping lead the way is none other than Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), who balked when Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee urged Republicans to remember “the least of these.” The Tennessee Republican, defending the cuts, countered with 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”
As a theological matter, this isn’t constructive – as Jack Jenkins explained, the Bible verse “was actually referring to ancient Christians who had stopped working in anticipation of Jesus’ Second Coming. The verse is concerned with correcting a theological misunderstanding (i.e., don’t just wait around for Jesus, live an active faith), not passing judgment on the poor.”
But wait, it gets much worse.
A Tennessee congressman who supports billions of dollars in cuts to the food stamp program is one of the largest recipients of federal farm subsidies, according to new annual data released by a Washington environmental group.
Using Agriculture Department data, researchers at the Environmental Working Group found that Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican and a farmer from Frog Jump, Tenn., collected nearly $3.5 million in subsidies from 1999 to 2012. The data is part of the research group’s online farm subsidy database from which the group issues a report each year.
In 2012 alone, the data shows, Mr. Fincher received about $70,000 in direct payments, money that is given to farmers and farmland owners, even if they do not grow crops.
So, the guy who’s trying to slash assistance for struggling families, arguing that it’s necessary to cut spending and let the poor fend for themselves, is also the beneficiary of generous agricultural subsidies? This Tea Party Republicans wants the Department of Agriculture to give him money, but not the poor?
Yep, pretty much.
Note, we’ve known about the generous taxpayer-financed subsidies Fincher collects for a while – I first wrote about it in April 2011 – and the fact that they seem to contradict his political ideology. Asked two years ago whether he’s prepared to stop taking these agricultural subsidies, Fincher wouldn’t say.
But that was before he started pushing aggressively for cutting food stamps, which makes this story considerably worse.
During the committee debate, Fincher declared, “We have to remember there is not a big printing press in Washington that continually prints money over and over. This is other people’s money that Washington is appropriating and spending.”
Right, and Washington has been appropriating and spending our money by giving it to wealthy farmers like congressman Fincher.