Proposed House Farm Bill Adds Insult to Injury
Sr. Quincy Howard, OP
April 16, 2018
The recently-passed Republican Tax law is an insult to people living in poverty. The way the tax benefits were structured clearly revealed who our GOP lawmakers think are worthy public assistance. The tax-cuts lavish benefits on wealthy individuals and large, profitable corporations to the tune of $1.9 trillion over the next ten years. While most of the GOP talked about help for the middle class, in reality, middle income households received nominal tax cuts on a temporary basis (through 2025) depending on their circumstances.
Families and individuals experiencing poverty, however, were never part of the discussions during the creation of HR1 (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act). Republican leadership pointed to discredited trickle-down economics in response to any questions about how the tax law would impact jobless and underemployed people. Their projections of economic growth would magically meet the needs of common good. Enough said.
Fast forward four months to the farm bill released by the House last week. The farm bill (HR2) is the second part of this equation. In stark contrast to the tax debate, the House GOP is now squarely focused on the unemployed, underemployed, and those working for poverty wages in our nation. This time though the objective has shifted drastically from providing benefits via tax cuts to severely limiting the benefits that the government should provide.
Substantive changes to the SNAP program proposed in this bill would take food off the tables and empty the refrigerators of millions of food-insecure individuals and households that currently receive nutrition assistance. Instead, the GOP proposes feeding them hollow promises of “opportunity” through ill-conceived job training programs which are divorced from the reality of the 21st century.
Congress is intent on making sure corporations and so-called job creators receive massive tax cuts, trusting they will in turn raise wages and increase employment opportunities. Low-income workers, the unemployed, and the underemployed are expected to jump through hoops and continuously scramble to demonstrate that—yes, indeed they really are trying to work! Only then are they deemed worthy of nutrition assistance to help feed themselves and their families.
At the release of the farm bill, House Agriculture Committee Chair Conaway described the bill’s proposed workforce development program as a “historic investment in opportunities for SNAP recipients.” On one hand he describes how “SNAP recipients want to be beneficiaries of… economic growth. They want to take advantage of opportunities and meet the needs of our nation’s businesses.” Yet in the same statement he claims: “to ensure this investment yields results, we’re also making these work requirements mandatory.” These conflicting statements lay bare the judgement that is piled onto people experiencing poverty and the GOP’s twisted approach to “helping” by taking food from those who need it.