GOP To Poor: Let Them Eat Cake

If there ever was such a breed as compassionate conservative it appears to be extinct.  If you needed any evidence just look at what the House of Representatives did this week.

By a narrow 217-210 it voted to eviscerate the food stamp program by cutting nearly $40 billion from this valuable food assistance program for the needy. The Congressional Budget Office estimated 3.8 million Americans will lose their benefits as a result.

The man who engineered this anti-compassionate move — Fox News called the vote a “major victory” for him — during Succoth, the festival of the harvest, was Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the lone Jewish Republican in the 113th Congress.  It was his idea to remove food assistance from the farm bill so Republicans could vote for billions in farm subsidies while giving the back of their hand to the poor. When food stamps were part of the farm bill, as has been the case for many years, the legislation was defeated because Republicans don’t like food welfare for the poor, just welfare for the rich.

All 217 votes to eviscerate the nutrition program came from Republicans; 15 broke ranks to vote NO with 195 Democrats.  Most of them came from suburbs of metropolitan areas, including Peter King, Richard Hannah and Michael Grimm of New York. 

People on food stamps live on $4.50 a day.  Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) compared that the what junketing lawmakers bill taxpayers for to pay for their own food and drink on overseas travel.  Speier, unfortunately, didn’t name any names in a House speech last week when she reported that several colleagues who voted against SNAP “dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar” on the taxpayers’ dime.  One billed $127.41 a day for food in Argentina, another listed $3,588 for food and lodging on a trip to Russia. “That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days,” she reported.

The Des Moines Register indicated the unnamed congressman was Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and said the $3,588 tab for his Russian trip would equal 881 days of SNAP benefits. Another 20 members went to Ireland and billed taxpayers $166 a day for food.  None of these selfless public servants paid for any of these meals out of their own pockets, she said.

Fourteen Republicans who voted to gut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the poor also voted in favor of funding farm subsidies that go directly into their own pockets.  Anywhere else that would be a conflict of interest, but apparently not in the U.S. Congress. None recused themselves from voting on the legislation.  Together they have received a total of $7.2 million in farm subsidies since 2004, according to Politico

 “It’s outrageous that some members of Congress feel it is OK to vote for their own taxpayer subsidies but against critical nutrition assistance for 47 million Americans,” Rep George Miller (D-CA) said.

But you can’t blame them, I guess, since very few poor people vote Republican anyway.  Maybe that’s why some folks say GOP stands for Greedy Old Pols.

As if to prove the point, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), just a day before voting to slash nutrition assistance for needy Americans, was kvetching about how he was “stuck” having to get by on his meager $172,000 congressional salary. He failed to mention that this over-paid and under-performing public official has filed disclosure statements showing his net worth is in excess of $3 million.

Another overpaid kvetch is Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), who made a similar complaint a couple years ago about how tough it was to get by on $174,000; when a constituent told him that’s triple his own salary, the compassionate congressman replied, “I have more debt that all of you.”

Congressional Quarterly last week issued its annual list of the 50 wealthiest members of Congress, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) with a net worth of $355 million. All but two of the House Republican multi-millionaires on that list, Hanna of New York and Gary Miller of California, voted to slash food aid to the poor.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.