Charlie Cook of The Cook Report believes that if Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) survives his challenge from Rep. Tom Cotton in November, Cotton’s vote against the Farm Bill on January 29 will be one of the main reasons.
From “Hunger Games, U.S.A.,” Paul Krugman, NYT:
“Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.
“The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week.
“House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies — at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed — while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.
“To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: ‘You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people’s money’ — frequently, at this point, they add the words ‘at the point of a gun’ — ‘and force them to give it to the poor.’
“It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people’s money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.
“Food stamp usage has indeed soared in recent years, with the percentage of the population receiving stamps rising from 8.7 in 2007 to 15.2 in the most recent data. There is, however, no mystery here. SNAP is supposed to help families in distress, and lately a lot of families have been in distress.
“In fact, SNAP usage tends to track broad measures of unemployment, like U6, which includes the underemployed and workers who have temporarily given up active job search. And U6 more than doubled in the crisis, from about 8 percent before the Great Recession to 17 percent in early 2010. It’s true that broad unemployment has since declined slightly, while food stamp numbers have continued to rise — but there’s normally some lag in the relationship, and it’s probably also true that some families have been forced to take food stamps by sharp cuts in unemployment benefits.
“What about the theory, common on the right, that it’s the other way around — that we have so much unemployment thanks to government programs that, in effect, pay people not to work? (Soup kitchens caused the Great Depression!) The basic answer is, you have to be kidding. Do you really believe that Americans are living lives of leisure on $134 a month, the average SNAP benefit?
“Still, let’s pretend to take this seriously. If employment is down because government aid is inducing people to stay home, reducing the labor force, then the law of supply and demand should apply: withdrawing all those workers should be causing labor shortages and rising wages, especially among the low-paid workers most likely to receive aid. In reality, of course, wages are stagnant or declining — and that’s especially true for the groups that benefit most from food stamps.
“Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness…. If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold.”
The farm bill didn’t pass the House because the GOP hated the food stamp part of the bill. Why don’t those lazy hungry children just get jobs?
But they want the agricultural subsidies to continue… What to do?
Why take food stamps out of the farm bill, of course, and vote on them separately!
I think we can guess which way GOP House members will vote on each.
Eric Cantor is blaming Nancy Pelosi for the failure of the farm bill (with the food stamp cuts) to pass. Um, Eric, you’re the majority leader, and she’s the minority leader. Your party runs the place.
Law professor Peter J. Spiro has a very interesting “briar patch” take on tough state immigration laws and the Supreme Court:*
“Such laws [Arizona’s S.B. 1070 and similar laws in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana] are misguided at best, mean-spirited and racially tainted at worst. The conventional wisdom among immigration advocates is that immigrant interests will be best served if the Supreme Court makes an example of Arizona’s law by striking it down.
“But in the long run, immigrant interests will be better helped if the Supreme Court upholds S. B. 1070. Laws like Arizona’s are such bad policy that, left to their own devices, they will die a natural death — and their supporters will suffer the political consequences.
“Undocumented immigrants may themselves be politically powerless, but they have powerful allies. In Alabama and Georgia, dismayed farmers have watched crops rot in the fields for want of immigrant labor. Arizona is estimated to have lost more than $140 million from convention cancellations made in protest.
“Even more important is the prospect of lost foreign investment. Caught in the net of Alabama’s law in November was a German Mercedes-Benz executive, who left his passport at home while out for a drive and as a result found himself in a county jail. Mercedes has a plant in Tuscaloosa that employs thousands of Alabamans and adds many hundreds of millions of dollars to the state economy. That embarrassment will make the next foreign company think twice as it scouts out a location for a manufacturing facility in the United States.”
* “Let’s Arizona’s Law Stand,” NYT