On Friday night’s “NewsHour” on PBS, New York Times columnist David Brooks criticized House Republicans for passage of a farm bill earlier this week that included agricultural subsidies but stripped out funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, which would have funding appropriated in a separate House of Representatives bill.
Brooks called that a political and a substantive disaster for not showing any effort to reform agricultural subsidies.
“The House Republicans are making it difficult for me to be a big cheerleader this week,” he said. “This started with a decent impulse, that we have this sort of weird system, where we have a political alliance. We put the food stamp program with the agricultural subsidies, and so you get people on both sides voting for it, and that would guarantee passage year after year. All these people come to Washington and say, we’re going to change things. We are going to cut the ag subsidies. We’re wondering why food stamps is exploding as a program. Maybe we need to cut that back.”
“And so they say, let’s change things,” Brooks continued. “And that is sort of a decent impulse. But at the end of the day, what do we have? They’re not really cutting ag subsidies. They’re just catering to their old interests, just as before, but they’re tripping stripping out the food stamp program. So they’re giving money to corporate farmers. They’re taking, at least delaying money to poor people who need food. So it’s a political disaster. And it’s also a substantive disaster, because they haven’t really changed the ag subsidies.”
Later in the segment, Brooks keyed in on the food stamp program and an area of government needing reform due to waste. However, Brooks said based on his own research for a column he ultimately did not write, such criticisms were not warranted.
“I was going to do a column, because the Republican critics are correct that the number of people on food stamps has exploded,” Brooks said. “And so I was going to do a column, this is wasteful, it’s probably going up the income streams to people who don’t really need the food stamps. And so, this was going to be a great column, would get my readers really mad at me, I would love it, it would be fun. But then I did some research and found out who was actually getting the food stamps.”
“And the people who deserve to get it are getting,” he continued. “That was the basic conclusion I came to. So I think it has expanded. That’s true. But that’s because the structure of poverty has expanded in the country. And so to me it seems like a legitimate use of money. And if you want to replace it with an EITC, or Earned Income Tax Credit, or another thing, that would be legitimate. But it’s — right now, it seems like a reasonably good program.”
Earlier this year, many of the Obama administration’s efforts to increase food stamp program participation were uncovered, including one that explained to illegal immigrants how to get assistance without showing documentation. Another effort showed an aggressive push by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enroll seniors in the program.