Editorial: Let them eat cake?

Food stamp spending has, according to a recent letter to our editor, doubled under the Obama Administration. Also multiplying under President Obama’s watch has been the national number of severe weather events.

Both statements may be true, but the implication is illogical. The President may be powerful, but can Rappahannock County’s increased food stamp usage, for example, be traced directly to the White House?  

Whatever the cause, the numbers are sobering – and for a county thought to be as well-off as Rappahannock, shocking:

Rappahannock residents enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) last year numbered 894, about 12 percent of the county’s entire population. Among these were 363 children, roughly 25 percent of the county’s total number of children!

And, yes, the numbers of food stamp recipients started increasing in 2008, the year of President Obama’s election. This was also the last year of the second Bush presidency – the year of the nation’s financial meltdown and the beginning of the so-called Great Recession.

Funding for food stamps has traditionally been packaged with agricultural subsidies in the nation’s periodic farm bills. For almost half a century, this spirit of compromise and trade-offs, though far from perfect, led to bipartisan consensus so that responsible governance could be achieved in Big Washington.

In the latest effort by the current House of Representatives to enact a farm bill, however, an essentially party-line vote on July 16 produced agricultural subsidies legislation that no longer included food stamps. Our congressman, Rep. Robert Hurt, had voted against an earlier version of this bill on June 20 that did include Food Stamp funding.

Like all the Republicans who switched their votes, according to the congressional watchdog MapLight, Rep. Hurt  has received significantly higher campaign contributions from interests supporting the bill’s Big Ag programs than Republicans who voted “no” on both bills. In Rep. Hurt’s case, that amount is $211,506.

While there is rational disagreement about SNAP’s efficacy, all might agree that Rappahannock has an unacceptable level of poverty and that $211,506 could put a lot of food on the table. But that’s chump change compared to the farm bill’s taxpayer-funded billions for corporate welfare going to agribusiness and already wealthy farmers.

Walter Nicklin