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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

 
Political malpractice

by digby

Here is a perfect illustration of why so many progressives are downright distraught over the direction of the Democratic Party.  It's less about ideology and much, much more about basic strategic and tactical incompetence.

Get a load of this:

A group of nine Democratic members of the House of Representatives held a press conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday to demand Congress avert an automatic food stamp cut scheduled to take effect on Friday.

"The average family of four will see a $36 cut in their monthly benefits, bringing an accurate per-person benefit from $1.50 a meal to $1.40 a meal," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said. "Shame on this Congress for allowing this to happen."

But the cut, which will reduce monthly benefits for all 47 million Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by roughly 7 percent, is happening thanks mainly to Democratic votes that hastened the demise of a benefit increase from the 2009 stimulus bill. Each of the representatives at Tuesday's presser voted with their party for a pair of 2010 spending bills that set the cuts in motion.

The first bill took money allocated for future food stamp use and used it instead to prevent states from laying off teachers. Democrats supported the bill grudgingly, lamenting that it would cause a food stamp cut in 2014. When it came time to support a second bill that raided future food stamp funds once again, pushing the cut to November 2013, they protested -- at least at first.

"This is one of the more egregious cases of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and is a vote we do not take lightly," more than 100 Democrats wrote in an August 2010 letter to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But then President Barack Obama smoothed things over in a meeting at the White House, because the bill in question was the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act -- a priority of the first lady's. The measure provided free lunches and updated nutrition standards for schools.

"I am very pleased we were able to work together with the president and his team to address concerns regarding cuts to the food stamp program that are included in the child nutrition bill," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement at the time. On Tuesday, Lee told HuffPost the president had pledged to support replacing the SNAP funds, a vow he fulfilled in subsequent budget blueprints that didn't become law. Congress and the White House have been otherwise silent about the issue for the past three years.

On Tuesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) defended the 2010 tradeoff.

"It was a piece of legislation that said let's change nutrition standards, let's get junk foods out of our schools, and let's make sure that our kids can have those fruits and vegetables," DeLauro told HuffPost. "There was no money for it. The price of it was $2.2 billion. That came from the food stamp program and all of us here complained. And we were opposed to that but we knew that it was a good first step in getting the Hunger-Free Kids Act."

Friday's cut is happening thanks to the expiration of a 13.6 percent food stamp boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus bill. Originally, lawmakers had planned to let SNAP's annual inflation adjustments catch up to the increase sometime after 2015. Canceling the enhanced benefits this November means the government will spend $5 billion less on nutrition assistance next year -- an annual SNAP spending cut 25 percent larger than what House Republicans are seeking in farm bill negotiations starting this week.

They are actually defending the fact that they were forced into choosing between vegetables and fruits for school lunches and food stamps for poor people. Our progressive representatives passively capitulated to the absurd notion that we could not do both. How many of these "deals" have Democrats made over the past few years?

This is just pathetic:

DeLauro pivoted from November's food stamp decrease to Republican demands that food stamps be reduced by 5 percent, or $40 billion over 10 years, though the two things are completely separate.

"This is about people wanting to make a $40 billion cut in the food stamp program," DeLauro said, "not to put in place a Hunger-Free Kids Act, but in fact to take food out of the mouths of our children, or seniors, and the disabled. A much different time, a much different place, and a much different set of circumstances."

Right, poor people are much more fucked than they were before and are about to get fucked even more.

Meanwhile:

The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record $2.02 trillion, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Russia. That is a gain of $300 billion from a year ago, and more than double a decade ago. The average net worth of list members is a staggering $5 billion, $800 million more than a year ago. The minimum net worth needed to make the 400 list was $1.3 billion. The last time it was that high was in 2007 and 2008, just before the financial crisis. Because the bar is so high, 61 American billionaires didn’t make the cut.

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