Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mike Tomasky Acknowledges Dems Want to Cut SNAP, Too...But Gives Them a Pass

Earlier today, I stumbled upon an article by Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky entitled "The Republicans’ Food Stamp Fraud: It’s Not About Austerity."

The title is somewhat strange in and of itself. He seems to be saying that cutting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or "food stamps") would be okay if such cuts were for austerity. So if the Republicans were cutting SNAP because of THE DEFICIT, then it would be okay?
Let's go over to the article itself.

He begins by noting that Republicans want to cut SNAP for sadistic reasons rather than budgetary reasons. Tomasky won't say this because of his VSP leanings, but we must never forget that, as Chris Hayes eloquently explained, no one actually cares about the deficit.
But spare me a moment here—plus a thousand words down the page—and I think maybe you’ll agree with me that the single worst thing the Obama-era Republicans have done is try to push through a $40 billion cut to the food-stamps program. It’s just unspeakably cruel. They usually say publicly that it’s about saving money. But sometimes someone—one congressman in particular—lets slip the real reason: They want to punish poor people. The farm bill, which includes the food-stamp program, goes to conference committee next week. That’s where, the cliché has it, the two sides are supposed to “iron out their differences.” The only thing the Democrats on this committee should do with an iron is run it across the Republicans’ scowling faces. ....
This cut is the fraud, because it’s not really about fraud or austerity. It’s entirely about punishing the alleged 47 percent. The bottom half or third of the alleged 47 percent. It’s absolutely appalling. These folks have done a lot of miserable things in the past four years. But this—the morality of this is so repulsively backward, the indecency so operatically and ostentatiously broadcast, I think it takes the gold going away.
I wouldn't disagree with any of his indictments of Republicans. But wait a moment. There's also this:
It’s costing about $80 billion a year. Senate Democrats proposed a cut to the program. A small cut, but a cut all the same: $4 billion over 10 years. The Republicans in the House sought a cut of $20.5 billion over 10 years. But then the farm bill failed to pass. Remember that? When John Boehner didn’t have enough votes to pass his own bill?  After that debacle, the House took the farm bill and split it into two parts—the subsidies for the large growers of rice and cotton and so forth, and the food-stamp program. Two separate bills. And this time, Eric Cantor doubled the cut: $40 billion over 10 years. This number, if it became law, would boot 3.8 million people—presumably, nearly half of them children—off the program in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office
(Emphasis added) 
He acknowledges that Senate Democrats also wanted to cut the program. However, he seems to give them a pass. They don't face any criticism in his article. Only Republicans do.

By all means, $4 billion over a decade is not as deep of a cut as $4 billion per year over a decade. However, we shouldn't even be considering cutting SNAP when the program has been the only thing keeping many people afloat in the still-depressed economy. Is it okay that Democrats want to cut SNAP because of THE DEFICIT, as one might infer from reading Tomasky? NO.

The Democrats' support for cuts also has an insidious consequence: putting the debate on Republican terms. The debate is not "if" the program should be cut; rather, it is "by how much." And Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has already expressed a willingness to cut even deeper than the Senate bill already did. And when the debate is not "if" but "how much," the resolution will always tend toward "more."

During the debate over the Farm Bill, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand proposed an amendment to restore the $4 billion that the Debbie Stabenow and Thad Cochran's farm bill cut from SNAP and to offset this restored funding with a limitation on crop insurance reimbursements. Our current crop insurance subsidies benefit large farms at the expense of smaller ones and are one of the many glaring manifestations of corporate welfare that Congress never fixes.  Gillibrand's amendment would, in essence, cut corporate welfare spending to restore social welfare spending.  Did this progressive proposal pass?  Not even close.  It failed 26-70. Not even a majority of Democrats voted for it.

Which Democrats voted against restoring food stamps--voting against veterans, children, seniors, and those struggling to get by?

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)

I was shocked to see Al Franken on that list, but I'd guess it's because he's from a big agricultural state. None of these Democrats deserve a free pass from criticism. They may not use the hateful rhetoric of the GOP, but that doesn't make their cuts noble.

On the other hand, these 26 senators voted to restore SNAP funding.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Sherod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA)
Sen. Mo Cowan (D-MA)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Sen. Angus King (I-ME)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Only two Democrats---Sheldon Whitehouse (who was not there to vote on Gillibrand's amendment) and Jack Reed, both of Rhode Island--voted against the Senate Farm Bill. The rest ultimately gave their implicit approval to the idea--and policy--of cutting food stamps.

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