When Delaware Democrats Vote to Cut Food Stamps

Filed in Delaware, National by on June 1, 2013

The Farm Bill (S. 954) was being worked by the Senate the last few weeks, in an effort to get a bill done and voted on before the recess. This bill looks much like last year’s bill (but adding some additional support for Southern crops such as rice, cotton and peanuts). As this bill came out of the Agricultural Committee, it had cut $4.5 BILLION from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand offered an amendment (#931) to restore those cuts:

Both Senator Coons and Senator Carper voted NO on this amendment — ensuring that the unemployed, the underemployed, the elderly and the young get to struggle even harder in an economy that these two have done remarkably little to help repair for these families. As you can see, they were not alone in this — 26 other Democrats also joined them. But there’s more!

And then there’s this:

Senator David Vitter offered — and Senate Democrats accepted — an amendment that would increase hardship and will likely have strongly racially discriminatory effects. [It] would bar from SNAP, for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time — even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since…. The amendment would [also] mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members. So, a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren’s benefits would be cut…. Senator Vitter hawked his amendment as one to prevent murderers and rapists from getting food stamps. Democrats accepted it without trying to modify it to address its most ill-considered aspects.

Vitter’s Amendment was ADOPTED by Unanimous Consent. Meaning that both Senators Carper and Coons agreed to this.

We already know that both Carper and Coons voted against letting states make their own determinations as to the labeling of GMO foods.

So what is going on here? I have no idea, really, but I’m pretty mad about this. Senator Coons spent some time with the Delaware Anti-Hunger Coalition specifically committing to support for anti-hunger programs.

“It is hard for me to accept that there are some in Congress who don’t see this as a moral challenge for our country,” Senator Coons said. “Teachers know, parents know — all of us know — that a child who begins their school day hungry doesn’t focus on their lesson, doesn’t absorb what their supposed to learn, is much more likely to be a problem in the classroom, and is much less likely to be able to grow, achieve, and to dream big.”

And because of this vote, Senator Coons has helped a few more children to be less likely to be able to grow, achieve and to dream big. There is NOTHING balanced about a deficit reduction program that asks more of the folks who can least afford it than it asks of the corporate farmers who get to do their work certain that they’ll get paid by taxpayers. But Senator Carper was there too, promising to support efforts to reduce hunger (without comitting to SNAP), but this is what is attributed to Senator Coons:

“Thousands of Delawareans – men and women, many of whom work full time, as well as children – go to sleep at night unsure of where their next meal will come from,” said Coons. “That is a moral challenge we must meet and a wrong we must right. Even in these times of tight budgets and program cuts, our values demand that we put a circle of protection around the most vulnerable of our neighbors. I will keep fighting to protect SNAP and other nutrition programs that Delawareans depend on.”

Apparently the fight for a circle of protection around our most vulnerable neighbors was too much for Senator Coons.

Senator Coons was a signatory to a letter urging the restoration of funding for Second Chance Act grant programs — programs that help to fund prisoner re-entry efforts that reduce recidivism. Why would he vote to undermine the efforts of those released from prison to feed themselves and their families as they try to get back on their feet? Senator Carper doesn’t have much of a trail on re-entry services, except for when he was working with Joe Biden to get more law enforcement dollars to Delaware.

So what do we have? A Farm Bill that undercuts the people who most need the help while handwaving at any reform of the Farm subsidies programs — making certain that big agribusiness maintains access to taxpayer money (with little to nothing for family farmers) and crop insurance companies get a big payday. In other words — it is one more bit of bipartisan fraud on Americans, with Democrats enabling the GOP to get their agenda done. While any Democratic agenda — the one that feeds people — gets left on the floor.

Both of these Senators are routinely seen at Food Bank and other food support programs all over the state — if you see them there, ask them why they voted to cut Food Stamps. In the meantime, call their offices this week and ask specifically why they voted to increase hunger insecurity in Delaware.

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  1. geezer says:

    What makes this especially egregious is that about 10% of Delaware’s full-time state employees are paid so little that they qualify for SNAP.

  2. I’m beginning to think that Coons’ only advantage over Carper is that he sometimes articulates ‘dog-whistle’ language that appeals to progressives.

    Then, he contradicts that language with his Carperesque votes.

    Our congressional delegation consists of three stooges for the corporate class.

    As you know, the word ‘stooges’ can have more than one meaning. In the case of the Delaware delegation, it does.

  3. cassandra_m says:

    Meanwhile, Senator Coons is out and about trying to get more funding for law enforcement body armor.

    More funding for body armor; less funding for people who are hungry.

  4. xstryker says:

    And they both supported the Monsanto Protection Act.

  5. Steve Newton says:

    If you make the analogy that Congress is the big leagues and the General Assembly is the AAA farm system, this is pretty predictable, because you can see that the same behavior is reinforced there.

    So far this year the GA has said “No” to state employee pay raises (see Geezer comment above) while funding $29 million in giveaways to multi-billion-dollar corporations.

    They said “No” to expanding Medicaid coverage for children while funding several new “slush funds” for charter schools.

    They said “No” to finding the funds to stop teacher and paraprofessional lay-offs across the State while finding $5 million primarily to use for new computers to help meet the reporting requirements that Race to the Top no longer pays for.

    Carper, Coons, and Carney are merely accurate representatives of the political culture that is Delaware.

  6. geezer says:

    Bulls-eye, Steve.

  7. Dave says:

    The bulk of the cuts ($4.5 B related to SNAP) come from the Standard Utility Allowances Based on the Receipt of Energy Assistance Payments

    Here is a decent explanation of the SUA: http://www.masslegalservices.org/content/56-what-standard-utility-allowance-sua-and-what-h-eat

    SUA is comprised of 3 elements:
    Heating (or air conditioning) SUA, Non-heating SUA (electricity (non-heating), cooking gas, garbage collection, water and sewer fees passed onto tenants.), Telephone-only SUA

    You do not have to prove your actual costs to get the SUA. You get the full SUA even if you live with another household and pay only part of the utilities and even when not using heating or A/C.

    Additionally, the $4.5B is a projected change in direct outlays and not cuts per se, since budgets are not appropriated for the entire period. Finally, the CBO estimate is $4.5B from 2013 – 2022, an average direct outlay reduction of $4.5M per year.

    The CBO estimates can be found here: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/AgricultureReformFoodandJobsAct.pdf

    So the $4.5B is not a cut (unless it is in the current budget year) because there are no budgets, appropriations, or authorization in out years. I suppose on can make the argument that since financial assistance is fungible, it doesn’t matter where the reduction is, it would translate into taking food off the table. But then, we could employ the butterfly effect for everything.

    Perhaps Congress should spend some time defining what constitutes income for the purposes of qualification. There are many needy families who are denied because of income and at least some who should be denied because of income, if income where defined properly.

  8. WOW, great post and thread, people. I noticed the bill and amendment but hadn’t seen the actual voting. “Dog Whistle Chris” it is.

  9. cassandra_m says:

    First, Congress passes budgets (not appropriations, usually) using a 10 year baseline. It may be silly — especially since no future Congress is tied to a previous budget. But if they are presenting a 10 year budget and claiming savings over that 10 years, then that’s the mark that we discuss. Because the 10 year baseline is the term that Congress (and the CBO and all of the other machinery) is working from.

    The SUA is an allowance used in the calculation of your shelter expenses, since some shelter expenses are deducted from your overall income to establish an official income level to determine the SNAP benefits a family might be entitled to. Getting rid of this allowance from the SNAP benefits calculation, increases the adjusted income of applicants, meaning that these applicants are going to be facing a reduction in SNAP benefits. A recent (May 13, 2013) Congressional Research Service Paper explains this in some detail. According to this, 14% of the state’s recipients of SNAP benefits are also getting the SUA.

    Documentation for SUA seems to vary on a state by state basis. Massachusetts (the state you linked to) has no documentation requirements, but the State of Maryland does. Delaware looks like they verify specific info too.

  10. bamboozer says:

    Let’s all take this time to admit we’d all like to replace all of Delaware’s “Democrats” in the house and senate. But like usual we will have to console ourselves knowing it could be infinitely worse with even one Republican in there.

  11. Milhous says:

    Come now, who amongst didn’t know deep down that Delaware’s 36 year run as the nation’s #1 supplier of weapons-grade bullshit (PA grown bullshit I might add) to Congress was, like Joe Biden’s career, a complete fluke that we was just ridin’ to glory on a nonstop crazy train.

    Now that that operation has gone national, and dropped Delaware like a wet turd on fire, we gotta send all we really got here in plentiful supply and we sure is supplying it aplenty my chickadees! So look out Congress, there’s a new smell comin’ to town on teh Amtrak Metroliner and you’ll never know what hit you until you taste the best damn chicken shit money can buy!!

  12. geezer says:

    That’s an impressive run of scatology.

  13. Milhous says:

    Oddly it you what was as a-channelin through my head, geez, bout the time I started hittin below the C&D belt some, once I got the sonorous brevity and subtle meathammer wit of Vice Important President Plugs McChickletooth out of my head.

    Helluva state we got going here, no? HELL. Of. A. State!!

    And now back to the wall…..lol

  14. John Manifold says:

    “As New York Times columnist Tom Edsall has pointed out, political science research shows that politicians consistently overestimate the conservatism of their constituents.”

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113292/nras-end-real-gun-control-movement-has-arrived

  15. Mark Perri says:

    Wake up Democrats, your party has abandoned you.

  16. HEADLINE: Democrats Complicit
    Local party members remain compliant by claiming to be Shocked! Shocked! by the behavior of the people they persist in believing are their representatives.

  17. puck` says:

    Today’s progressives are suckers for a corporate stooge as long as they are socially liberal, and they positively swoon over one who is for gay marriage.

  18. cassandra_m says:

    Not that there is anything wrong with swooning for gay marriage. The thing with Coons, especially (as I point out above) is that he is publicly progressive on issues like food insecurity AND prisoner re-entry. He, at least, will make the moral arguments for stuff like this — but then he goes to Washington to vote to destablize it all. I’m sure that when he talks about this it will be in the context of “hard choices”, yada yada. But there’s no hard choices involved when corporate farmers retain their own version of TBTF taxpayer backstops, and people who work at Walmart (or even the State of Delaware) are left with fewer resources to feed their families.

  19. puck says:

    Coons’s first vote was to cut taxes on the rich. He has to pay for that somehow.

  20. SussexAnon says:

    A friend of mine referred to Coons as “Sand Jesus” because of the press conference he held a few weeks ago touting the money he got for beach dredging.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. See also: beach replenishment.

    Keep throwing money (and sand) and hopefully the problem will go away.

  21. puck says:

    Close enough.

  22. geezer says:

    SA: Nobody any longer expects beach replenishment to be a permanent solution to sand migration. It’s more like road salt — you need it if you want to get through the season.

  23. SussexAnon says:

    There are alternatives to dredging.

    The current dredging strategies are not sustainable.

    It is insane and a waste money to do the same thing over and over.

    Even road salt has alternative technologies, pre treatment, de icers, etc.

  24. cassandra m says:

    There are no cheap options to just hold on to the beach. Beaches aren’t meant to be permanent features — they are supposed to be able to absorb the energy of storms, among other things — but all of the development on top of that sand seems to force governments into so really stupid choices to preserve some stupid development choices. Taxpayers are in the business of preserving the value of beach property, while other needs of taxpayers get thrown away.

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