With the passage of the Farm Bill on Feb. 7, President Barack Obama and legislators in Washington have shown that they now may be able to bypass deadlock and reach across the aisle. It just comes at the cost of quality legislation. The $956 billion act will cut $8 billion in funding for our nation’s Federal Food Stamp Program over the next decade. This reduction is projected to affect about 800,000 families currently accepting food stamps. Those families will lose approximately $90 worth of allotted food stamps each month. In a struggling economy, this aspect of the bill does not please many.
This bill replaces the current direct payment system to farmers with an insurance subsidy program. The former provided subsidies to farmers regardless of how much they grew annually. According to The New York Times, this reform will save $19 billion over 10 years, and at little cost to farmers.
By swinging from the extremes of political gridlock to half-baked bipartisanship, which the far right has largely dictated, our federal government is failing to enact legislation that will benefit our nation’s people as a whole instead of just appeasing agribusiness lobbyists.
The Washington Post reported that Obama’s signing of the bill doesn’t adhere to his fiscal 2014 budget proposal, which states, “With the value of both crop and livestock production at all-time highs, income support payments based upon historical levels of production can no longer be justified.” Yet, the passage of the act does just that.
While this is a signal that our political leaders may be taking note of and responding to the damaging effects of legislative latency, it also indicates that politicians are comfortable enacting mediocre policy.
Some may consider an active, yet still divided Congress as a better alternative to inaction. Obviously, one’s answer may change based on the prospects and possible consequences of each individual piece of legislation. Yet, when a bill will benefit wealthy corporations over working-class families, as this bill does for factory farms over families on food stamps, it is hard to see the passage of this bill as a victory.
With 2013 regarded as the least productive year for Congress in recent history, according to Pew Research Center, the signing of a major bill into law seems refreshing, but in the context of the recession, largely caused by a lack of concern for our nation’s working class, the farm bill continues to emphasize the United States’ problem with addressing the needs of the middle class.
This bill – which has GOP appeasement written all over it – is yet another instance of Democrats yielding to Republican interests at the expense of meaningful legislation. Previously, the GOP put Democrats through a lengthy rigmarole while attempting to pass the Affordable Care Act, the result of which was neutered legislation that barely resembled the bill’s initial draft.
The passage of the bill into law was a bipartisan agreement, not bipartisan legislation. It would be nice to see – and nice for our nation’s people to feel – the effects of true bipartisan policy, but for now, achieving that seems to be an unrealistic dream.