Good News: the $570 billion compromise on The Farm Bill (TFB) will reportedly increase Food Stamps and other federal food aid by $10.2 billion. Bad News: the increase comes at a terrible cost. Dem Senators Baucus and Conrad — representing states with a total of six electoral votes — used the suffering of nearly 40 million hungry Americans to pry out $3.8 Billion in "Permanent Disaster" funds, which permanently subsidize farming in places too dry to farm. Big Ag and their hired Congressional hands joined in the extortion by sluicing $5 Billion into the $26 Billion "Direct Payments" lagoon.
But wait — there’s more!
The versatile Baucus — along with Sen. Lincoln — obliged Big Timber by threatening to ax the increased food support without another $750 million for Weyerhuaser, Plum Timber, and pals. Sen McConnell (R-StableBoy) came out for the horsey set, forcing another $100 million in accelerated depreciation for those hard-pressed racehorse owners on the TFB packhorse. And the Ranking Minority Member of the House Ag Committee opened up his nozzle for the serial poisoners otherwise known as Big BugSpray (stalwart members of the American Chemical Association) — so BigPoison could kill off the USDA’s (very limited) restrictions on pesticide use on lands that TFB dollars pay to set aside for conservation. Hey, if your living comes from making and pushing industrial poisons, an acre unsprayed is an acre lost to profit.
Looking at the steaming pile of megasubsidies for megacorps and mega-landowners, topping off the whole confection with an extra dollop of poison seems the perfect finish for this toxic appropriation.
In 2006, even before the (Farm Lobby purchased) insane ethanol subsidies — and predatory speculators fleeing the toxic "sub-prime" market they created and grew fat off — drove global grain costs to starvation altitudes, almost 11% of Americans went hungry for want of food. That’s nearly 37 million hungry Americans: 12.6 million of them hungry children. Sure gives a whole new spin to "Suffer the little ones".
In 2006, one-third of the American families needing food banks were above the poverty line. After all, why should the Beltway and the Village define "poverty" to include "people without enough food to eat"?
But the Bushie Beltway did find time to redefine "hunger". As of 2006, the obliging USDA obeyed their Bushie masters and newspeaked away America’s hungry kids and families — all 36.6 million of ‘em. Nope, we don’t have hungry Americans anymore: according to the USDA, we have Americans with "food insecurity". Kinda like "social anxiety" disorder, but instead of starting the school day with blushing, the "food insecure" kids start the school day with growling. Growling stomachs.
But Friday’s TFB compromise fixed the whole thing, right? More for Food Stamps and WIC, more for Big Ag. Cargill’s happy, ADM’s happy, industrial ethanol got their (slightly decreased) subsidy: everything’s OK with the breadbasket and our tummies, right?
Nope. The Beltway’s official "Poverty Level" is based on calculations created over 40 years ago — even their creator, Molly Orshansky, has been quoted as saying the U.S. Government’s Poverty Level is badly outdated. The fact that one-third of the families who required food banks to stave off hunger — excuse me, food insecurity — in 2006 earn above the Poverty Level confirms Ms. Orshansky’s assessment.
Friday’s compromise, and the $10.2 billion increase in Food Stamps, WIC, and other Federal food programs, will do little to help the one-third of hungry families above the Beltway’s official poverty line. The increase may well be too little to help all two-thirds of hungry families below the poverty line. Even with Friday’s increase, the total federal food assistance is likeley to be insufficient to feed all the Americans who qualify for food aid.
Yet Sen. Baucus, Sen. Conrad, Sen. Lincoln, and Sen. McConnell — together with the other Congresscritters the megacorps and industrial ag purchased as hired hands — used TFB as leverage to pry out more than $9.5 billion in tax and subsidy giveaways of our tax dollars to people who nearly all have enough to eat. Save for the relatively small proportion of either "Permanent Disaster" and/or "Direct Subsidy" payments going to small family farms, the vast majority of the $9.5 billion go to families far better off than average Americans, as well as to obscenely wealthy megacorps and syndicates.
How many poverty stricken race-horse owners do you know? How many small family businesses earn more than Weyerhuaser, Plum Creek Timber, Anthony Forest Products, Monsanto (serial corporate poisoner), Cargill (second largest privately held company in the US), or ADM (serial corporate briber)?
Yet Friday’s "successful" compromise gave almost as much — $9.5 Billion — to the have-everythings as the $10.2 Billion alloted to expand federal food programs for the poorest.
Threaten a few families you’ll take away their food unless your wealthy bosses get their way — you’re an extortionist. Threaten 12 million families that they’ll go hungry unless your bosses get what they want — you’re a U.S. Senator.
Sen. Baucus — who never met a forest-protection bill he didn’t try to stiff — has been whoring for Big Extraction (timber, mining, energy) throughout his sorry career. Same with Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, who blocked the two week extension of TFB negotiations the anti-subsidy negotiators sought last week. The Senate apparently deferred to SenatorWide Stance on this — no doubt in deference to his expertise on getting business in public done in a hurry.
Sen. Baucus — the pine beetle of forest protection — tells us money had nothing to do with it.
The American Forest & Paper Association, the industry trade group, has endorsed the legislation as "long overdue" changes that will "allow the U.S. timber industry to continue to compete in the global economy."
A similar message is echoed by Sen. Baucus. A statement by the Senate Finance Committee notes U.S. forest-products companies, which have shed thousands of jobs, have been "under intense competitive pressure" to reduce their federal-tax liability. "This provision is meant to level the playing field for companies that are competing at home and around the world," said Baucus spokeswoman Carol Guthrie.
Sen. Baucus has received $82,450 in contributions from individuals and political-action committees, or PACs, with ties to the industry — the highest among candidates for federal office, the center said. Ms. Guthrie said the donations haven’t influenced the chairman. "Absolutely not," she said. "That’s never the case with Max Baucus.
Sure. Like Senator Craig, he did it for love.