Hooray! Let's Screw the Poor Even More When the Economy Is Already Keeping Them Out of Work

| Thu Jul. 11, 2013 5:28 PM EDT

I see we got some more posturing from Republicans today:

House Republicans successfully passed a Farm Bill Thursday by splitting apart funding for food stamps from federal agricultural policy, a move that infuriated the White House and congressional Democrats who spent most of the day trying to delay a final vote.

....The vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions in food stamp money and handed Republican leaders a much-needed victory three weeks after conservative lawmakers and rural state Democrats revolted and blocked the original version of the bill that included food stamp money.

....The White House said late Wednesday that President Obama would veto any Farm Bill that fails to comprehensively address federal farm and food aid policy. In a statement, White House officials said they had insufficient time to review the bill.

Republicans are upset that spending on food stamps (aka SNAP) has gone up so much over the past few years. And why has it increased? Because more people qualify for SNAP these days:

Fine. But why do more people qualify? Well, the big increase starts right where you see that thick gray bar, which represents the Great Recession. That should give you a clue. CBO fills in the rest:

Almost two-thirds of the growth in spending on SNAP benefits between 2007 and 2011 stemmed from the increase in the number of participants. Labor market conditions deteriorated dramatically between 2007 and 2009 and have been slow to recover; since 2007, both the number of people eligible for the program and the share of those who are eligible and who participate in the program have risen.

About one-fifth of the growth in spending can be attributed to temporarily higher benefit amounts enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The remainder stems from other factors, such as higher food prices and lower income among beneficiaries, both of which have boosted benefits.

So there you go. We had a big recession. The recovery has been anemic. That means there are more poor people, and that in turn means there are more people receiving SNAP benefits. It's really not very complicated.

Even knowing that, Republicans tried to cut $20 billion out of SNAP a few weeks ago (a figure that's over and above the phaseout of the "temporarily higher benefits" from the stimulus bill that's already scheduled for November). They even managed to get a few dozen Democrats to go along. But it wasn't enough. They just had to tack on a screw-you amendment at the last minute that lost them enough votes to prevent passage. So now, instead of ditching the amendment, they're splitting up the farm legislation in an effort to produce a separate SNAP bill that will be even more miserly than their previous effort. Because, really, what's the point of being a modern Republican if you can't cut back on food aid for the poor during a period of extended high unemployment?

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