Cynthia Neely: Farm bill vote gives farmers welfare but not the poor - Guest Columnists - Mobile

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Cynthia Neely: Farm bill vote gives farmers welfare but not the poor

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Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Republican and a farmer from Tennessee, has received nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from taxpayer money from the years 1999 to 2012. Last year, Mr. Fincher received $70,000.

Farmers have collected $265 billion in direct payments and farm insurance subsidies since 1995. These payments are often made even if farmers do not grow crops.

However, when it come to food stamps, Congressman Fincher wants to cut funding for them because, in his words, “This is other people’s money that Washington is appropriating and spending.”

The irony of his $3.5 million in “welfare” checks as “other people’s money” is apparently lost on him.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to reduce the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $40 billion. The vote was 217 to 210. Not one Democrat voted for this measure. Reducing SNAP will throw 3.8 million Americans out of the program in 2014.

The Republicans in the House took this action even though the Agriculture Department reports that 17.6 million households did not have enough to eat at some point in 2012, and the Census Bureau reports that 15 percent of Americans — or 46.5 million people in this country — live in poverty.

Unbelievably, 44 percent of those in poverty live below half the poverty line, which is $9,150 for a family of three. That is about 20.5 million people, and includes 15 million women and children.

For more startling facts about the poverty in this country, 55 percent of all food stamp recipients are children under 18 or the elderly over 65, and many of those who need nutritional assistance are in the military. The average benefit to a food stamp recipient is $133 per month.

But instead we give large subsidies to large farming operations that are paid not to grow cotton, corn, sugar, etc.

During the Great Recession, more Americans needed food stamp assistance due to plummeting incomes, loss of jobs, loss of homes and reduced working hours. Now is not the time to plunge the middle class and the working poor deeper into poverty.

One side of the SNAP program which has been largely ignored is the fact that by providing food stamp assistance at local grocery stores, SNAP puts more money into the economy and helps to provide private sector jobs in the farming, transportation and retail industries.

Republicans in Congress claim to support small businesses, but their actions speak louder than words.

The United States is the richest country in the world. We often hear claims about American “exceptionalism.” We also hear claims about following the teachings of Jesus.

Perhaps those voting against this program should read Proverbs 14.31: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

The Republicans in Congress should be ashamed of voting against feeding hungry Americans.

Cynthia Neely is a Lodi resident.