The first thing you need to know about the farm bill is that the only reason that it failed in the House was that some of the Republicans didn’t think it was horrible enough. So don’t get the idea that its failure was some kind of indication that the House conservatives were evolving hearts. Taking more than $2 billion per year in food away from poor people just wasn’t enough. If some Republicans are to do their jobs, there much be much more suffering!
For the last many decades, the Farm Bill has been a kind of coalition thing. As the number and extent of farmers diminished, there just wasn’t enough political power to keep those farm subsidies going. But poor people are an everyday and everywhere kind of thing here in the United States. And they need to eat. And farmers need to sell their food. So it was a great deal. Provide farmers with help and provide programs like food stamps (SNAP) and lunch programs. (Note: the farm bill is much more than this, but that’s all I’m going to talk about now.)
The fact that the modern Republican party doesn’t understand these ideas should not be at all surprising. They have a two pronged attack to any question. First, help the rich. Second, screw the poor. And the farm bill was a great opportunity to do both. Matt Yglesias provided the following graph this morning before the House voted down their bill:
Note that farmers are doing better than the country as a whole. What’s more, the fact that this graph lists mean and not median values probably reduces the relative differences. Needless to say, the poor who are getting their food stamps cut are doing much worse than the average. So once again, the conservatives are going after chump change that is spent on the poor while ignoring large amounts of money going to the affluent (or at least more affluent). In other words: the perfect Republican bill!
I still hope that somehow Congress will work this all out. The level of villainy and just plain ignorance that is demonstrated by the House Republican caucus is overwhelming. When will they pay for all the harm they are doing?