Congressman Jared Huffman made the wrong call when he helped to cut food stamps recently by voting yes on the Agricultural Act of 2014, aka the Farm Bill.
Huffman should have known better. Last June, he participated in the "SNAP Food Stamp Challenge" for five days, to find out what it's like to have just $4.50 a day to spend on food. On the first day of the effort, Huffman said, "I can already tell that [quality] protein and just about anything fresh are going to be casualties of a food-stamp diet."
Huffman endured the ordeal for a week. Imagine coping with it for 52 weeks a year.
I had guessed that Huffman would vote no on the Farm Bill for two reasons: he had voted against cuts to food stamps in November, and he'd personally experienced what it was like to try to eat a healthy diet on a food-stamp allowance. But I called his Washington, D.C., office anyway, to state that I strongly opposed any further cuts to food stamp benefits, and urged that the cuts from November be restored.
Instead, I was horrified to learn that Huffman had in fact voted for the Farm Bill, a measure that further reduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $8 billion, worsening the damage done by $5 billion in cuts that were passed by the House just three months before.
Unlike most Democrats from California in the House of Representatives, Huffman chose to vote for a bill that leaves hungry people even hungrier than they were last fall. Huffman issued a statement after his vote, soft-pedaling the damage that he helped to inflict. He said that the original bill called for $40 billion in cuts, so it was good that only $8 billion over 10 years was cut. Not good enough, I say.
Huffman should have stood up and said, "It's a disgrace that Congress would even consider cuts to basic nutrition programs in these times of record-breaking corporate profits," and voted no.
Alice Chan is Co-Chair of the Coalition for Grassroots Progress and an elected delegate to the California State Democratic Central Committee. She lives in Sebastopol. Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write firstname.lastname@example.org.