Open Thread: Billions for Millionaires, But Not One Cent for Hungry Children

Before the strain of staying on our best behavior breaks us, here’s some more well-deserved invective concerning the food-stamp-free farm bill. Gail Collins, in the NYTimes, on the GOP’s “Tasty Bites theory of government

… Lately, the House has begun chopping up big, complicated bills into what Speaker John Boehner once described as “bite-sized chunks that members can digest.” No more legislative sausage-making. No more bipartisan trading. The House was going to stick to clean, simple ideas, more along the lines of Liver Snaps.

So the farm bill got divided. The two parts were not equally tidy. As Ron Nixon reported in The Times, the rate of error and fraud in the agricultural crop insurance program is significantly higher than in the food stamp program. Also, the agriculture part has a lot of eyebrow-raising provisions, like the $147 million a year in reparations we send to Brazil to make up for the fact that it won a World Trade Organization complaint about the market-distorting effects of our cotton subsidies.

And while food stamps go to poor people, most of the farm aid goes to wealthy corporations.

So House Republicans passed the farm part and left food stamps hanging…

The House bill actually spent more money on subsidies for farmers than the bipartisan Senate version the Republicans scorned. It also dropped the Senate’s limit on aid to farmers with incomes of more than $750,000 a year. And while it mimicked the Senate in dropping most of the much-derided direct payments to farmers, the House gave cotton farmers a two-year extension.

Let’s take a special look at cotton, which is a particularly good example of the tendency of agricultural benefits to flow uphill. “Some of these guys — and they’re all guys — are getting more than $1 million in support. The bottom 80 percent are getting $5,000 on average,” said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group.

Faber’s organization, which keeps careful track of these things, says direct payments to cotton farmers since 1995 have totaled $3.8 billion. That does not count the annual $147 million the United States has been sending to Brazil in hush money…

92 replies
  1. 1
    Jerzy Russian says:

    That does not count the annual $147 million the United States has been sending to Brazil in hush money

    I can keep quiet for far longer than that. Send me a cool million and you won’t ever hear from me again.

  2. 2
    cleek says:

    oh beautiful for spacious skies
    for amber waves of grain

    that song don’t say nothin about poor people, dig?

  3. 3
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I wondered who would be the first frontpager to move on from Stuck. :)

  4. 4
    Yatsuno says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Man shall not live by Stuck alone…

    If anyone is even close to shocked by this, come closer. You need a good swift kick in the patootie.

  5. 5
    NickT says:

    the annual $147 million the United States has been sending to Brazil in hush money

    Damn it, how much more did Greenwald want?

  6. 6
    BubbaDave says:

    And while it mimicked the Senate in dropping most of the much-derided direct payments to farmers, the House gave cotton farmers a two-year extension.

    That’s reparations for the Federal Government unconstitutionally taking the cotton farmers’ harvesting equipment away back in eighteen-sixty-something-or-other.

    [/Ron Paul]

  7. 7
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @Jerzy Russian: That would be “for far less than that”. My staff copy editors and proofreaders have really been sloppy lately.

  8. 8
    Baud says:

    I’m going to plant some cotton in my backyard.

  9. 9
    NickT says:


    the TeaHadis have no idea how to look up politics, legislation, and governance in a dictionary

    Real Murikans burn books. Witches, also too.

  10. 10
    trollhattan says:

    I guess cotton needs all that extra cash because as a crop it needs shittons of water (all subsidized in California) and pesticides.

    Yay, us.

    Speaking of inbred corruption, anyone else following the Gawker series on Wal-Mart? Steel yourself first, if you decide to dive in.

    And as a chaser, local lawyer hits up the Prop 8 triple-losers for a few (hundred) more billable hours. Yay, losers.

  11. 11
    gene108 says:

    I just saw Pacific Rim.

    The movie is all that is right with CGI and special effects. The movie can be summarized thusly:

    Monsters go “aaaarrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhh”

    Men in robots go pew pew pew pew


  12. 12
    MomSense says:

    So farmers up to $750,000 get aid? But the family of three earning 20,000 a year doesn’t need no stinking food assistance?

    I just want to play bowl house Republicans with a combine.

  13. 13
    Kay says:

    Food stamps are a coordinated GOP campaign.
    Bob Latta goes to rural-area meetings and sets it up as farmers (well, people who own farmland) versus food stamp recipients.
    It’s perfect for conservatives, because their base can then continue to insist they are fiscal conservatives while grabbing federal subsidies with both hands.
    It’s an absolutely disgusting political strategy, because of course a lot of rural poor people depend on food stamps.
    They are now slicing and dicing people WITHIN solid conservative districts, setting one group against another.
    I think it’s a new low.

  14. 14
    Violet says:

    @Baud: Quite a few years ago now, a guy who lived around the corner from me planted cotton on that little bit of land between the sidewalk and the street. He wanted his grandkids to see what cotton growing looked like. They weren’t going to see any cotton fields, so he planted it.

    Wonder if he got a tax break. If so, I’ll be planting cotton next.

  15. 15
    Baud says:


    If they ever start subsidizing weeds, I’ve got it made.

  16. 16
    YellowJournalism says:

    @gene108: Your summary should be on every ad and poster for the movie.

  17. 17
    NickT says:


    You have to think that they are going to reach a point in the near future where people realize that they are being played. You can only manage so many divide and conquer games in the same area or same demographic.

  18. 18
    Mnemosyne says:


    Apparently, California farmers have been getting away from planting traditional cotton and either planting the non-subsidized but more profitable Pima cotton or planting other crops.

    I think Pima cotton also uses less water than acala (traditional) cotton since it was developed in the Southwest, but I can’t find confirmation of that.

  19. 19
    Mnemosyne says:


    I went to a fiber arts retreat and there was a woman there who had grown her own cotton bushes from seed, harvested it, spun it into yarn, hand-dyed it, and woven a vest for herself.

    Fiber arts enthusiasts are pretty frickin’ hardcore.

  20. 20
    NickT says:

    Apparently the jury has asked for a clarification on the manslaughter instructions from the judge in the Zimmermann trial. This sounds somewhat promising for a manslaughter conviction to me, although second-degree murder must presumably be out of consideration.

  21. 21
    trollhattan says:


    Great article, thanks!

    Hey, I learned something on a Saturday.

  22. 22
    MomSense says:


    I keep eyeing my pets with the “I bet I could knit a hat out of you” look.

  23. 23
    BillinGlendaleCA says:


    And as a chaser, local lawyer hits up the Prop 8 triple-losers for a few (hundred) more billable hours. Yay, losers.

    Saw that on the local news last night, can’t they just give up already? And yes I know the answer to that question.

  24. 24
    NickT says:


    Just don’t blame me when your little liberal cyber-enclave is put to the virtual torch.

  25. 25
    Ruckus says:

    This might be a new low but I’ll bet the record won’t stand for long. Crazy assholes will find new ways to pay off the people paying them to be crazy. Using everyone else’s money. They figured out how to do it in the banking industry and will just keep moving on till there is nothing left.

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:


    No kidding. My spouse taught an artist friend of ours to knit, which she decided she loved. Next thing you know she was dyeing her own yarn using dyes of her own formula. Still not enough, so she started buying wool and spinning it. If she didn’t live in the middle of town there would be sheep and alpaca in the yard, I’m positive. As it is she’s eyeballing the dogs.

  27. 27
    gene108 says:


    I was getting paid 8.65, which was abysmal for the work I performed.

    From one of the Gawker stories.

    I could pull down $9/hr, when I was in college, in the mid-1990’s with the minimum wage being $4.25/hr, doing telemarketing / cold-calling jobs.

    Wages really have not kept up with the cost of living.

  28. 28
    Kay says:


    Latta started it a full year before Romney was told to say it.
    It’s brutal. They’re basically telling farmers their subsidies are in danger because of food stamps.
    Again, “farmers” includes “lawyers who own farmland”, so don’t get too hung up on that word.

  29. 29
    mclaren says:

    So explain to me why every Democrat in congress and president Obama aren’t beating the lecterns with their fists every time they give a speech and constant repeating, “This is what happens when you vote for Republicans. You want jobs? Vote Democrat. You want health care? Vote Democrat. You want to get the economy moving again? Vote Democrat. You want to end the foreign wars, end the torture, end the corporate welfare, vote Democrat. This is going to keep happening unless you, the public, vote the Republicans out of office. It’s up to you. Do you want a working economy? Or do you want more collapse, more stagnation, more gridlock? Vote Democrat. Vote the corrupt thieving lazy filibustering Republican bastards out of office and do it now.”

    Why isn’t every Democrat in office saying this every time there’s a press conference? Whatever the ostensible topic of the press conference, just say it over and over and over again. “I’m glad you asked about NASA space policy, Cokie, and I want to say this about space policy: if you want to get the economy moving, you the voter have to vote the Republicans out of office.”

    Or: “Thank you for asking that question about Libya. The voters need to vote Republicans out of office to get this economy moving again. It’s the Republicans who are shutting the U.S. economy down and they’ll continue to shut it down until you the voters vote every Republican out of office. If you want to keep your job, vote the Republicans out of office. If you want your wife to keep her job, vote the Republicans out of office. If you want your kid to have a job when he grows up, vote the Republicans out of office.”

    Over and over and over again: just pound it home. Vote the Republicans out of office. It’s like the line “Come with me if you want to live” from Terminator II except in this case it’s “Vote the Republicans out of office if you want a functioning economy.”

    Why isn’t every Democrat in America repeating this constantly in front of every available microphone and TV camera in the country?

  30. 30
    CDW says:

    The only question in my mind is whether Obama will be fool enough to sign the ag bill expecting a food bill to come along later. Kind of like the sequester deal. I fear he will.

  31. 31
    scav says:

    @MomSense: Knew someone once that was hand spinning the fibers from her two dogs — that knitting project (a nice golden color) was taking quite the time. Makes the other someone with mere sheep (and I forget what else. goat probable, alpaca??, donkey yes) look downright vanilla.

  32. 32
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @efgoldman: That’s been on the local news a lot here as well, folk seem to be cooking weed to extract THC. Tends to end the same as cooking meth.

  33. 33
    IowaOldLady says:

    I go to this feminist science fiction conference and “fiber arts” are big there. There are people knitting or spinning with spindles in most of the audiences, and there’s a big fiber arts circle at this fair-like event on the first day. It’s actually pretty interesting to watch the spinning.

  34. 34
    Violet says:

    @Mnemosyne: Oh, yeah, I’m sure they are. This guy wasn’t one a fiber arts guy, though. He was just a guy who wanted his grandkids to see cotton growing. The next year he planted something else interesting, although not as interesting and unusual as cotton. He was a bit of a character.

  35. 35
    NickT says:


    I found the case of GOP Congresscritter Stephen Fincher distinctly enlightening. His company Fincher Farms has made near $9 million off cotton subsidies over the last decade, and he’s managed to get his corrupt hands on $3.5 million on his own account. Such are our fiscal conservatives who wish to eliminate food stamps and bring back famine to America.

  36. 36
    PeakVT says:

    That bill is a travesty. The fact that Nancy SMASH lost zero votes from her herd of cats (including the somewhat-less-than-liberal Ag. Com. ranking member Collin Peterson) says a lot about how bad it is.

  37. 37
    Kay says:


    I know! Food stamps are a voucher to buy agricultural products.

    I don’t think this ends well for farmers or food stamp recipients, but that’s the pitch. They’re trying to get their VOTERS out, and poor people are “sporadic” voters, generally, low turn out, not ALL of course.

  38. 38
    trollhattan says:


    It’s genuinely rough, the reason I suppose why we have so many working poor who qualify for some kind of assistance.

    Hard to settle on any one thing that’s especially repellant but it’s worth highlighting the way store management games worker schedules to keep them juuuuust from qualifying for benefits and minimizing their holiday bonus take. Their policies and tactics remind me of two things: sociopathic prison guards and $ciento1ogy. (Is there any question Miscavige would make the perfect WM COO?)

  39. 39
    Violet says:

    @Kay: Speaking of food stamps and thus hungry people, I dropped off a bunch of food at a local food bank the other day. There was a waiting line out the door just to get a number to get to go inside. I was dropping off a variety of things, including a bunch of boxes of cereal. Two of the four volunteers I encountered exclaimed “CEREAL!” when they saw it, followed by all sorts of, “We really need cereal. Thank you so, so much!”

    Tons of kids with their moms waiting in the line to get a number. Just broke my heart. I hope they enjoyed the cereal if they ever got in to get it.

  40. 40
    Ruckus says:

    That’s why I call them crazy assholes. They can’t even see how something so simple as food stamps works. One party gets money from one side and gives it to the other side. The other party gets money from both sides. And complains about it. Fucking assholes.

  41. 41
    gene108 says:


    Why isn’t every Democrat in America repeating this constantly in front of every available microphone and TV camera in the country?

    Do you know, who owns the T.V. cameras and microphones?


    That’s why Democrats don’t get heard.

    If liberal billionaires existed, we maybe could even things out, but as of now no one supporting Democrats has the resources to put up the media operation right-wingers have established over the decades.

  42. 42
    MomSense says:


    We go to the Common Ground Fair every year and there is a woman who sits in front of the rabbit exhibit–spinning directly off the rabbit! All the kids (and me!) end up standing there staring in wonder. The fur comes off in rows – ears to tail and then tail to ears. Crazy!

    I think my dog’s fiber donating days are over–there are some very thin patches and the shine ain’t what it used to be! And then my coon cat’s fur in summer is horrible. He goes outside to hunt and such and I think must hide in crazy places. He comes home with sticks, and leaves, and other bits of nature in his fur. Maybe I should shear him!

  43. 43
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Violet: We buy the Costco three-packs for the boys. Next time I will set aside the flavour I usually have to beg them to eat.

  44. 44
    gene108 says:


    The managers are just being played by the higher-ups. The manager’s bonuses are probably based on keeping the hourly stiffs down, so he/she feels compelled to push them down to get ahead.

    The next higher-ups feel compellled to put this pressure on the managers and the next higher-ups feel the same sort of pressure and so on and so on, creating a vicious cycle of screwing people over to get the few crumbs the Walton heirs will let drop.

  45. 45
    scav says:

    @MomSense: That is one patient rabbit.

  46. 46
    PsiFighter37 says:

    Getting hammered on the pool deck in Seattle. Today’s weather is the perfect weather, literally.

  47. 47
    Violet says:

    @YellowJournalism: I’m sure some hungry kids in your community would appreciate that. My local food bank said peanut butter was their number one need this month. I guess all the kids home from school need sandwiches. Kind of breaks your heart. I thought I might pick some up the next time I’m at the store.

    My local food bank is just supported by churches, the local community and other organizations. We’ve got a much larger food bank that gets donations directly from the food companies or stores or whatever–you know, the food arrives on pallets. This one is just small and kind of shoestring. I try to help if I can.

  48. 48
    gene108 says:


    It’s just an extension of one of the foundational pillars of modern conservatism: IGMFY

    The farmer has his subsidy, so screw the rest.

    It also seems to be a relatively effective strategy and way of life, as events and news that “shock” us to work together as a whole country seem to be damn near impossible to come by anymore.

    There’s always someone else to blame for something going wrong, so I don’t have to get off my ass and care.

    And there are well paid people in the media, whose job it is to pick out some folks to blame, so I don’t even have to think up excuses on my own to not care.

  49. 49
    Violet says:

    Looks like Zimmerman might get manslaughter:

    Jonathan Capehart ‏@CapehartJ 37m

    BREAKING: The jury question is related to the jury instructions on manslaughter. #trayvonmatin #georgezimmerman
    Retweeted 31 times

  50. 50
    NickT says:


    See comment 22 in this thread.

  51. 51
    Violet says:

    @NickT: Missed that, sorry.

  52. 52
    IowaOldLady says:

    If the Republicans succeed in separating food programs from farm subsidies, they’re going to find it much harder to pass their farm bill. John Conyers was once my congressman. Why would he vote for farm subsidies under those circumstances? His constituents would be annoyed if he did.

  53. 53
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Violet: That’s the very least he is guilty of. Someone here pointed that out when this whole thing blew up in Florida.

  54. 54
    Amir Khalid says:

    Which would, in my view, be an appropriate verdict. If it’s a manslaughter conviction, I understand Zimmerman could be looking at 30 years jail given his use of a gun.

  55. 55
    mai naem says:

    @Violet: I saw that. If this guy ends up in prison even for three months he’s going to end up dead form somebody in prison. And,no, I don’t think that’s a reason not to convict him, I just think he’s going to have some kind of price on his head.

  56. 56
    PeakVT says:

    @IowaOldLady: The Repukes are probably not going to succeed on the final bill because the Senate Dems don’t want the bill split, and neither does Obama. But we’ll have to wait to see what they do when the House-Senate conference reports a bill back to know for sure.

  57. 57
    mai naem says:

    @Amir Khalid: I can’t see him getting 30 years. He’s technically white so right off the bat he is not going to receive the max(exceptions for total psycho child molester types.) I figure if he gets anything it’ll be under a decade.

  58. 58
    IowaOldLady says:

    @PeakVT: I’m sure you’re right. But why can’t they see how what they want isn’t going to work? It’s not how politics works.

  59. 59
    trollhattan says:

    @mai naem:

    Am having no success finding out how penalty phase is handled in Florida jury trials–set by jury or by judge?

  60. 60
    Violet says:


    But why can’t they see how what they want isn’t going to work? It’s not how politics works.

    Zealots and true believers can’t see that kind of thing.

  61. 61
    burnspbesq says:


    And as a chaser, local lawyer hits up the Prop 8 triple-losers for a few (hundred) more billable hours.

    Pugno is NorCal’s version of Orly Taitz. He should get sanctioned out the wazoo for this stunt.

  62. 62
    burnspbesq says:


    I just want to play bowl house Republicans with a combine.

    Take a number.

  63. 63
    PeakVT says:

    @IowaOldLady: It’s certainly not how governing works, but it may be a successful way of playing politics. The Repukes couldn’t pass the original unified bill because they lost too many of their own party while not gaining enough of Dems. So the split bill was a posturing maneuver to please their big ag donors (by passing pork) AND the crazy base (by ditching nutrition altogether). We’ll see what happens after the conference committee, but I think the House Repuke leadership will be back to square one – a unified bill that won’t meet the “Hastert doctrine” requirement.

  64. 64
    sparky says:

    @BubbaDave: Ha ha. Reparations, indeed.

  65. 65
    Amir Khalid says:

    @mai naem:
    I have no idea myself how much jail time the relevant sentencing guidelines would prescribe for Zimmerman if he’s convicted. Since a death by wrongful shooting is involved, I suspect it would approach the high end of any range.

    But what’s really important to me is the verdict. I’m not so confident that the state made its case for murder 2. But I agree with PeakVT: at a minimum, Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter and should be convicted of that. Whatever sentence he does get for it won’t bring Trayvon Martin back. I’d settle for him being on the public record as a killer.

  66. 66
    lojasmo says:


    It’s probably “honey oil” which is extracted by butane. Most cooking is just regular baking.

  67. 67


    He comes home with sticks, and leaves, and other bits of nature in his fur.

    That’s catmouflage.

  68. 68
    PeakVT says:

    @Amir Khalid: I don’t remember saying that but I agree: manslaughter is better than nothing. But I still think the guy is guilty of murder. I had been thinking Zimmerman would get acquitted, but now with the manslaughter option available, that doesn’t seem as likely.

  69. 69
    lojasmo says:

    @mai naem:

    He’ll likely be murdered in jail.

  70. 70
    JoyfulA says:

    @MomSense: Pennsylvania’s Farm Show features a “Sheep to Shawl” competition.

  71. 71
    karen says:

    As I may have mentioned before, I’ve got Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia that has rapidly caused my muscles and joints to deteriorate for the past nine years. After being on the waiting list for nearly three years, on May 24 I found out that I finally made it into a place for the disabled and elderly, subsidized by HUD. On that same day I got laid off from my job of 15 years. Last week we had “Produce Day” which is really free food from the Capital Area Foodbank. There was fresh fruit and vegetables and bakery products and for people like me who have no income other than unemployment or social security disability, it was a great help. If that is cut, I’ll be okay but some of the people here depend on that food to eat healthily. Fresh produce has gotten more expensive and unfortunately, processed food is much cheaper. Taking this away would be devastating.

  72. 72
    Yatsuno says:

    Can’t do this in the Tunch thread (poor kitteh):

    The meet-up reservation is set under the name Balloon Juice so that should get you to the table no sweat. I was unable to get verdant latex spheroids so just ask for the party there. I will be in a gray Boise State sweatshirt and I plan to arrive a bit early.

  73. 73
    PurpleGirl says:


    The farmer land-owner has his subsidy, so screw the rest.

    Fixed for accuracy.

  74. 74
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Yatsuno: Roger Moore went with the green mylar variant for the LA meetup.

    ETA: You kids have fun and don’t over do it. I know how wild Seattlites can get.

  75. 75
    taylormattd says:

    @Yatsuno: It’s at the Pike Place Brewery in the Market, right? What time were folks going to show up?

  76. 76
    Yatsuno says:

    @taylormattd: Reservation is for 8pm, I’ll be there a bit early if Psi wants to stumble over early. Most of us already know each other from past meet-ups but if you ask for the Balloon Juice table you’ll get there no sweat. I’m aiming for closing the place down but YMMV.

  77. 77
    Amir Khalid says:

    Must be a glitch in my reading comprehender. I’ve already had one problem with it this week. Might need to get it checked out.

  78. 78


    He’ll likely be murdered in jail.

    Which sucks a different way. Much as I like the idea of some kind of cosmic justice, our prisons are a humanitarian nightmare.

  79. 79
    Yatsuno says:


    I don’t know about can’t own a gun

    He’ll most likely stop being an honourary white person on that point.

  80. 80
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Can’t do this in the Tunch thread (poor kitteh)

    I hope, and expect, that you will all lift a glass to the Memory of Tunch, as well as to General Stuck. A very sad day at Balloon Juice, but between the two of them it should be quite a wake.

  81. 81
    Yatsuno says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Since Psi has to stumble back across a cul-de-sac to get back to his hotel, I plan on pickling his liver quite nicely. :P And there will be beverages raised for both those who have moved on to the next plane of existence.

  82. 82
    lojasmo says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Oh, I agree. Not hoping for it, just saying that prison tribalism is such that he, as a doughy hispanic/white dude who killed a black adolescent, is likely to be disposed of while in prison

  83. 83
    PsiFighter37 says:

    I’m lit like a torch at a Survivor Tribal Council, but damn is that sad about Tunch. RIP, you fat cat. We may have said a lot of shit about you, but you were a hero to us all.

  84. 84
    Yatsuno says:

    @PsiFighter37: You only have to stumble your way over the side street so I ain’t worried about you.

    PS: heading south. See you when I see you.

  85. 85
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @gene108: Originally came here to say this. Saw the news on the General, then Tunch. Kinda got sidetracked from del Toro amazing awesomeness kinda while I hunted down my feline overlords for huggles.

    And because this is one of the few places I know that will appreciate this minor movie detail: the politician championing building a wall to keep the monsters away had a striking resemblance to a certain former Presidential candidate. I almost laughed out loud at that point.

  86. 86
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @efgoldman: Since I don’t have to drive like I did in LA, this could end up being extremely sloppy on my part. Take as guidance with potentially extreme caution.

  87. 87
    Elizabelle says:

    Verdict in the Zimmerman trial, per WaPost.

  88. 88
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    Zimmerman: not guilty. Fuck.

  89. 89
    Elizabelle says:


  90. 90
    Narcissus says:

    Wouldn’t want to be a black dude in Florida

  91. 91
    PeakVT says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: Second worse news of the night. Fucking-a.

  92. 92
    Egypt Steve says:

    It’s time to start calling these ag subsidies the “Farm Stamps Program.”

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