Paul Krugman's column today concerns the House vote on the farm bill:
Over the years, ... [f]arm subsidies became a fraud-ridden program that mainly benefits corporations and wealthy individuals. Meanwhile food stamps became a crucial part of the social safety net.Atrios says:
So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies -- at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed -- while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.
To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: "You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people's money" -- frequently, at this point, they add the words "at the point of a gun" --"and force them to give it to the poor."
It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people's money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.
Now, some enemies of food stamps don't quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the Bible instead. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies.
One does wonder whether the assholes in the House are just evil, whether they truly don't have any awareness of what it's like to be poor, especially in a recession, and whether they have any idea just how meager food stamp benefits are. This isn't quite the normal stupid or evil question, it's more a stupid or clueless/no empathy question.I think what they really believe is that if you're poor, well, you deserve to be poor, no matter what the overall economy is like -- God and the free market (neither of which ever make a mistake) made you poor because you have poverty coming to you (because you chose to do things that made you poor, mostly having to do with laziness and sex and substance abuse). You are meant to suffer -- and those evil liberals who insist on mandating that you get a helping hand from the taxpayer are interfering with God's plan for you, and messing with the mechanisms of the marketplace, which are divinely ordained and are part of natural law.
Rich agribusiness firms, on the other hand, have clearly been favored by God -- they wouldn't be rich if God didn't think they were doing the right thing. They're rich enough to pay for lobbyists who get laws passed favorable to their interests -- just as nature (i.e., the free market, which is part of God's plan) intended. So, yes, of course it's perfectly OK to take people's money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.
But as for the poor, the decision to let them suffer doesn't stem a lack of empathy -- it's a display of empathy. They've earned this suffering. It's good for them. It should teach them the error of their ways. God and the free market (which are pretty much the same thing) agree.