Congress Argues Over Whether Bible Allows Giving Free Food to Poors
Good news for the 15% of Americans who make up the Poors: Our elected representatives have done a close reading of
the Constitution the Bible and magnanimously decided that it's OK to give a few food stamps to poor people so they don't starve, but not too many. Of course, it was not an open-and-shut case, so it took around nine hours of deliberation to figure this out, including a friendly discussion of Biblical exhortations and their articulation in the 21st-century American context.
Questions under consideration included, but were not limited to, a textual analysis of Matthew 25, epistemological differences on whether we can infer that Biblical mandates-- directed at a pre-industrial, pre-modern community of Jews bound by kinship networks and patriarchal instantiations of authority-- apply to contemporary institutions devised for the purposes of collective government, and varying interpretations of Matthew 26's reference to Poors as "always among us" (ew).
Riveting questions! And, as always, they are totally appropriate to consider within the context of the House Agricultural committee's debate on farm subsidies.
WASHINGTON — The House Agriculture Committee approved a $940 billion farm bill, a day after the Senate passed its version, setting the stage for Congress to finally begin work on a new five-year bill.
The vote by the House committee last week was 36-10, with mostly Democrats voting against the bill after nine hours of debate...The House bill cuts projected spending in farm and nutrition programs by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years. Just over half, $20.5 billion, would come from cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The Senate voted to cut spending by $23 billion, with $4.1 billion of the cuts coming from the food stamp program
Cutting the food stamp program was hotly debated, with members quoting the Bible to support keeping the food stamp program at the current level or cutting it.
Rep. Juan C. Vargas, D-Calif., who opposes the cuts, began the thread by quoting a biblical passage from the 25th chapter of the Book of Matthew.
“I’m a Christian, and this chapter talks about how you treat the least among us,” said Vargas, adding that he would not support a bill that made such deep cuts to the anti-hunger program.
But K. Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, countered that argument.
“I take umbrage to that,” he said. “I take Matthew 25 to mean me as an individual, not the U.S. government.”
Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., then quoted a verse from the 26th chapter of Matthew, saying the “poor will always be with us” in his defense of cuts to the food stamps program.
Fincher said obligations to take care of the poor should be left to churches, not the government.
“Christians, Jews, Muslims, whatever — we are failing our sisters and brothers,” McGovern shot back.
Quite the little philosophers club, no?
Anyway, American Poors are lucky that their representatives are God-fearing men, otherwise they would have cut EVEN MORE from the food stamp budget. Democrats tried to include an amendment to restore those proposed cuts, but it was defeated. Enjoy hunger, folks:
A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan Washington research group, said the cuts in the food stamp program would eliminate 2 million people from the program, most of them children and older people. The report said the cuts would come in addition to a reduction that food stamp recipients would experience starting Nov. 1, when benefits that were increased under the 2008 economic stimulus expire.
Good work, GOP! Eliminating Poors, 2 million people at a time.