Congressional heels need healing

In the wake of an astonishing revelation that several of the United States’ wealthiest citizens (i.e. multi-billionaires) have received U.S. Department of Agriculture farm subsidies, several members of Congress are now taking a more incisive look at the various programs. According to the report, “Forbes Fat Cats Collect Taxpayer-Funded Farm Subsidies,” authored by the Environmental Working Group, the federal government paid out $11.3 million to 50 billionaires or farm businesses (between 1995 and 2012) in which they had an interest. And changes being considered to the Farm Bill could increase that take.

America’s farm country is solidly Republican. Politicians reciprocate the generosity of the farm lobby with a largess of their own. These subsidies are among the most unregulated government cash giveaways in existence.

It is worthy to note, however, that the Republicans’ Farm Bill, wouldn’t require drug testing as a pre-condition for receiving federal farm aid, but does require it for receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (i.e. food stamps). Unlike most of the farm lobby, SNAP recipients aren’t big campaign donors.

This kind of predatory bought-and-sold “democracy” is all-too-common these days. Less than a week after Congress slashed SNAP by $40 billion (over the next decade), the farm bill put forth by both the House and Senate will “shift subsidies from programs currently subject to means testing to the more generous crop insurance program,” allowing a greater percentage of the funds to be doled out to undisclosed recipients of unknown net worth.

Not only do the poor get short-shrift, this same Congress fought to prevent health care benefits for first responders to September 11th. So much for flag-waving patriotism.

Since Congress has weighed into the muddy waters of litmus tests for benefits, we might as well ask why drug tests aren’t required for prospective student loan recipients. What about university administrators whose professors (or the professors themselves) get enormous research grants? We could make a very long list of prospective federal grant and subsidy recipients who should also fall under the SNAP pre-condition. Oil company executives come to mind, as do all government contractors — for that matter, what about anybody that works for the federal government or for any organization that receives any kind of federal assistance? What’s good for the goose… .

At the end of the day, it’s pretty obvious what the SNAP drug testing is all about: It feeds the cynical right-wing myth that people are poor because they are lazy. It feeds the myth that this alleged indolence necessarily segues into illegal drug use. Of course this is the same contingent that wants stricter voting laws because they claim a great epidemic of voter fraud plagues our nation. The same contingent that shortens the number of early voting days and poll hours, thereby limiting the votes of these same individuals.

The exemplar of this hypocrisy is Stephen Fincher (R-TN) who quoted 2 Thessalonians 3:10: ‘For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat,’” as his defense of gutting SNAP. It is crucial to note that Fincher has received $3,483,824 in farm subsidies. His evisceration of SNAP was aided by 11 other members of Congress — all Republicans — who both receive farm subsidies and helped gore SNAP.

While not claiming any great biblical expertise, we’re pretty sure Jesus spent far more time curing the sick and feeding the poor than he did administering tests. If Fincher and his cronies want to justify their treachery with bible verses perhaps they should start with Luke 4:23 “… physician, heal thyself…”