What’s uglier? U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas’ decision to vote to strip food aid for poor people from a House farm bill that continues subsidies for farmers like himself or his pathetic qualification about the government welfare his family farm business does receive?
A recent report, titled “Pork Barrel Politics” and prepared by U.S. Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat, points out that Lucas, R-Cheyenne, and 13 other Republican House members voted recently to extend the type of farm subsidies from which they personally benefit in a bill that simply stripped out Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.
According to the report:
It is deeply alarming that some members of Congress are voting to provide themselves and wealthy special interests substantial farm subsidies while allowing authorization for effective and badly needed nutrition programs that benefit 47 million people across the country to expire. The core purpose of the farm bill is not to provide benefits to well-connected individuals and corporations but to ensure that all Americans have access to a stable and safe food supply.
Food stamp assistance has been part of Congress’s major farm legislation since 1973, according to The New York Times, but the Republican dominated House recently voted 216 to 208 to ostensibly end that precedent.
Lucas, who represents Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional district and is chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, has pushed for cuts to SNAP benefits, which have risen in recent years because of the economic downturn. Lucas is also under pressure from fellow Republicans to do so. I wrote about that here.
It should go without saying that it’s the height of hypocrisy and deeply immoral for someone who farms and receives government assistance to do so to oppose adequate food assistance for those people in need. Is that the so-called “Oklahoma Standard”? Let people starve and give me the extra money.
According to the report, Lucas’ family farm business has received $40,613 in government subsidies. The average SNAP benefit is $133 a month and more than half of the recipients are either children or elderly. Even after 25 years at the $133 monthly SNAP rate, a person would not collect as much as Lucas’ farm business has already collected from the federal government.
Lucas’ response to the report, as told by Republican propagandist Chris Casteel, Washington correspondent for The Oklahoman, is two-fold. One, the benefits, according to Lucas, were in his wife’s name, and, second, “Sixty percent of those payments were in the last two years to help deal with devastating drought conditions that gripped Oklahoma and much of the nation.”
Obviously, Lucas’ overall family household benefited from the government assistance so just because the benefits were in his wife’s name means little to nothing. Note this from Lucas’ government web site: “Congressman Frank Lucas is a fifth generation Oklahoman whose family has lived and farmed in Oklahoma for over 100 years.” So does his wife do all the farming now? Also, isn’t that devastating drought much like any other emergency situation, like when a person suddenly loses a job and has no money to buy food? It’s really a pathetic qualification, and he can only get away with it here in Oklahoma because of its conservative corporate media.
Lucas’ case is a telling example of how Republicans continue to try to cut aid to the poor as they personally enrich themselves and other wealthy people through government legislation both on the federal and state level. This is what they call fiscal responsibility, and they act as if no one can see through it.
The reality, of course, is that SNAP or food assistance will go on because both the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama will act with more prudence. But this House Republican stunt may well portend future cuts in the SNAP program, and that’s a shame because it’s a vital, efficient program that legitimately keeps people from starving.