Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Rotten harvest

 

OUR OPINION: House farm bill shows futility of political stunts

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

Here they go again: The House of Representatives managed to pass a farm bill last week that has absolutely no chance of becoming law. The sheer futility of this political stunt resembles the House’s multiple repeals of Obamacare, a variety of anti-abortion measures, and the ongoing approval of immigration bills that lack a basic citizenship provision.

None of them are going anywhere — fortunately — and all of them are a waste of time. But enacting laws no longer seems to be the objective of many House members. The point is to give House Republicans affiliated with the tea party an opportunity to boast of a political victory, thus letting them dodge a primary challenge from the right in the next election.

These political games carry a price. At the end of the day, Congress manages to do absolutely nothing to deal with serious national problems and people get hurt. The farm bill is a perfect example of how the public winds up paying for congressional inaction.

The first version went down in flames in the House because Republicans demanded draconian cuts in food stamp benefits that Democrats couldn’t support. But some Republicans wanted even bigger cuts, and they joined Democrats in voting No. In a fit of pique, GOP members then passed a second version that simply eliminated food stamps.

Speaker John Boehner said the House would take up food stamps later — hardly a reassuring promise.

In Miami-Dade County, where some 587,000 people — about 21 percent of the population — rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, the program’s elimination would be a disaster. A recent count showed participants received $894,247,000 in benefits, or about $144 per person per month. Statewide, Florida receives nearly $6 billion in food stamp benefits.

That money is not only a vital lifeline for the most impoverished. It also supports the community in general, grocery stores and food producers. Some farmers’ markets, like Overtown’s Roots of the City, allow shoppers to buy up to $20 worth of fruits and vegetables for only $10 using SNAP dollars. This is produce grown by residents and volunteers on several small urban farms in Overtown, thus providing a double benefit from SNAP funds in the inner city.

Republican House critics claim the food stamp program is larded with fraud and waste, possibly as much as $750 million per year. Perhaps, but the same can be said for other government programs — including defense — and that doesn’t prevent them from being funded year after year. Getting rid of food stamps altogether is the wrong solution. And the bill hastily drafted and approved in the House locks into place a $9 billion increase in crop insurance programs for 10 years that protects farmers from market fluctuations, among other things. Result: Poor families are ignored, agribusiness gets a big boost.

At this point, the best hope is that farm interests and supporters of the SNAP program join hands to persuade Congress to come to its senses. Now that the House has passed a bill, bad as it is, Senate and House negotiators have an opportunity to negotiate a compromise version that restores funding for food stamps at an acceptable level.

There is a case to be made for a wider, sensible overhaul of the food stamp program to reduce fraud and waste, as well as a companion bill to reduce farm subsidies, without gutting either program. But that will have to wait until better days, when the spirit of compromise and common sense returns to Capitol Hill.

Read more Editorials stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
MCLAWRENCE

    Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    The Herald recommends

    OUR OPINION: For Broward County Circuit Court

  •  
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is appealing judge’s decision to allow gay couples to marry.

    Miami Herald | ONLINE EDITORIAL

    Time to move on, Ms. Bondi

    OUR OPINION: Florida attorney general fighting uphill battle with same-sex marriage defense

  •  
SAENZ

    Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    The Herald recommends

    OUR OPINION: For Miami-Dade Circuit, County Courts

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category