KATIE ZERR: Some deserve help, others, not so much

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As West River ranchers face the financial burden of livestock loss that occurred during the October blizzard, members of Congress are pushing hard for a Farm Bill to help those in need.

For the most part, a working Farm Bill is a necessity. That is just the reality of our nation at this time.

There are many reforms needed, but with a Congress that won’t put the health of our country before personal agendas, common sense says reform won’t happen anytime soon.

Instead, members are using the old “create a diversion” tactic to make it look like they are actually taking care of taxpayers money.

With a cry of too much government welfare, certain members of Congress have decided the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) should be where they will save tax dollars.

The mass cut to the program is the diversion tactic used to show the American people Congress is watching that tax dollars don’t go to those who don’t deserve it.

But some of us don’t drink that Kool-Aid and if others would actually take a look into who is being protected in the war against the SNAP program, they might be surprised.

The proposed $40 billion cut to the program is estimated to be a hard hit to at least 900,000 veterans who rely on SNAP. The House Republican version of the farm bill, the five-year piece of legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture provisions, would slash funding for the program. As many as 2.8 million people would lose benefits of the program next year. That includes 170,000 veterans, who would be removed through a provision in the bill that would eliminate food stamps eligibility for non-elderly jobless adults who can’t find work or an opening in a job-training program.

So the “throw the freeloaders off SNAP” diversion hurts Americans who need the help. How about a throw the billionaires off the farm subsidies solution?

Farm subsidies were created to help our nation’s farmers during times of trouble. Subsidies are supposed to be there for small family farmers doing honest work to help feed the world and keep an important way of life alive.

But a recent story at the Huffington Post shows that many more than just America’s farmers are benefitting from the subsidy side of the Farm Bill.

One who receives benefits from the Farm Bill that might surprise the supporters of the cuts in SNAP is multi-billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

A couple of more billionaire surprises on that list are Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce; Charles Schwab, founder of brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corporation; and Alice and Jim Walton, Wal-Mart heirs whose net worth is $33.5 billion and $33.8 billion, respectively.

Reports show at least 50 billionaires or farm businesses in which they had a financial interest benefited from $11.3 million in traditional farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012.

There are also 15 members of Congress that benefit from farm subsidies, including South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, whose agricultural business has received more than $500,000 in subsidy payments since 1995, according to the Think Progress website.

As some champion the cuts to the SNAP program as a manner in which freeloaders get the government rug pulled out from under them, shouldn’t they be ashamed that in truth people who need a hand up are being tossed aside while billionaires continue to receive government subsidies?

Shouldn’t the American taxpayer care more for veterans and family farmers than billionaire businessmen and women whose conglomerations include farming industries?

Shouldn’t reform include those who don’t need help to put food on the table?

Veterans returning home from service have more trouble finding work and rely more heavily on the SNAP program. The unemployment rate for veterans returning home from service in the past decade is about 10 percent, almost three points above the national unemployment rate. About a quarter of recent veterans reported service-related disabilities in 2011.

These veterans deserve to have help when they need it the most.

Charles Schwab and the Waltons don’t need taxpayer dollars, our veterans do.

 

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