Ya Don’t Work; Ya Don’t Eat (But We Do, at the Public Trough)

Just a follow-up on the ugly spectacle of the R’s trying to take down the food stamp program:

Jonathan Chait, top-drawer writer at New York magazine, has a lengthy cut-to-the chase piece. That includes a link to a piece by Henry Olsen, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in, of all places, The National Review, where he articulately exclaims incredulity at what the Tea House has done, even if it is as much about stupid politics (“The focus on food stamps shows a total tin ear to American politics.”) as policy. Olsen quite rightly points out that, even if there is food-stamp fraud (Of course there is; it’s a program that helps feed almost 48 million people. Any program that large will suffer some abuse. But the answer is to go after the cheats, not simply cut millions of people off from their lifeline.), there’s much worse going on in the crop insurance program:

America’s crop-insurance program is obscene. Farmers receive government subsidies averaging 70 percent of their premiums to purchase insurance that protects them against declining crop value. There’s no income limit for this subsidy: The vast majority of this taxpayer money goes to farmers who make in excess of $250,000 a year. The insurance policies are sold by private companies, and the government also pays those firms about 20 percent of the premium cost to cover their expenses. The companies get to keep the profits from the policies, so taxpayer money makes crop insurance a largely risk-free investment for insurance companies. Thus, the government uses taxpayer money to pay rich farmers to buy insurance from wealthy insurance companies, whom the government also pays to sell the policies to the farmers. Talk about a “free” market.

Tell that to the Republican Chair of the House Agriculture Committee:

CNN reported last night that Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, a Republican supporter of the bill, received a daily meal allowance of $127.41, or 91 times the average daily food-stamp benefit. Lucas is also notable as a recipient of the agriculture subsidies his committee doles out: He and his wife have collected more than $40,000 worth. (Chait)

By contrast, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities goes into great detail (they always do) about how well the program actually works.



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