Hurting the poorest

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The recent passage of the farm bill is the best example of the ungovernability that predominates in the House of Representatives. Because of the extremism of a group of lawmakers in this caucus, decades-long agreements were broken to impose an ideology that punishes the poorest.

In the end, the House decided to split the portion that funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the one that establishes subsidies for the agriculture sector.

This meant breaking a bipartisan deal forged 40 years ago that balanced the farm bill regionally and politically by granting funding to rural areas in the form of subsidies, and at the same time helping the neediest urban sector.

The majority could not agree on how deep the cuts to SNAP should be. Therefore, it threw more than 46 million beneficiaries—47% of them minors—overboard and left it for another time. This prevented a debate about supposed waste on the urban poor from hurting subsidies for individual farmers and agricultural businesses.

Cruel ideological blinders led to disregarding the facts that the economic crisis left more people in a fragile economic situation and that the majority of jobs being created are in the services sector, where the national minimum wage puts these workers on a poverty level where they become beneficiaries of SNAP.

On the other hand, cuts to SNAP will hurt the economic recovery when they decrease the buying power of a group that quickly returns that money to the production cycle by purchasing basic products.

The action in the lower chamber does not in any way mean the end of SNAP. There are different paths to follow that could save the program, although it is unlikely that they will prevent funding cuts.

What has become clear is the level of dysfunction in the legislative chamber. The House must create its own rules in order to function, disregarding the rules that in a not-too-distant past achieved bipartisanship that allowed lawmakers to govern on behalf of all Americans.

As far as the concerns of lawmakers about the amount of people who depend on SNAP to survive, the solution is very simple. We must raise the national minimum wage so that it covers the minimum needs of workers and they can stop depending on the government’s help.