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Not Feeding the Hungry while Misusing Scripture

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) is no longer the only member of Congress who’s publicly quoting the Bible to justify his votes to cut food stamps for the poor while increasing farm subsidies for the rich. Now Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) is joining in the hypocrisy.

Like Fincher, Cramer voted to cut the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by $40 billion over the next 10 years. And earlier in the summer, he, too, voted for the $32 billion “farm only” bill that greatly expands crop insurance subsidies and price guarantees for growers.

Why? Because the Bible tells him so.

Shortly after voting to cut food stamps – even though he represents two of the hungriest counties in the country – Cramer quoted a Bible verse via Facebook saying “…[i]f anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat,” mangling the intent of the passage from Thessalonians.

Never mind that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most Americans who benefit from food stamps are children or elderly, and many of the working-age recipients are, in fact, employed.

Cramer, as it happens, represents North Dakota – one of the 10 states that collect the largest amounts of federal farm subsidies. Over the past decade, North Dakota farmers have banked more than $177 million a year in USDA “direct payments,” which are paid out regardless of need and whether or not the owner was actually working the land.

Farmers in North Dakota have also collected more than $415 million a year in subsidies to help pay their crop insurance premiums. And unlike in SNAP, there are no limitations on the amounts the federal government can pay in these insurance subsidies. And there are no sensible payment caps or means testing. 

Last year alone, federal crop insurance subsidies cost taxpayers $11.6 billion. And in a close vote this past June, both Cramer and Fincher voted against reforming the crop insurance program.

Cramer and Fincher were certainly not the only House members who voted to gut SNAP while keeping generous subsidies flowing to agribusinesses. But so far this congressional session, they are the only two to invoke the Bible when doing it.

It’s not a pretty sight.

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