The U.S. Senate approved a farm bill yesterday that didn’t go far enough in punishing poor people for the likes of Sen. Tom Cotton, one of 12 Republicans who voted no. Then he chose to dishonestly defend his vote against the interest of farmers, the largest sector of the Arkansas economy.
“While the farm bill has many important provisions for Arkansas’ farmers and ranchers and foresters, I was very disappointed at the lack of meaningful food stamp reform. Forty million Americans are using food stamps today at a time when we have booming economic growth. In 2009, at the depths of the last recession, only 33 million Americans were using food stamps. One reason is we won’t even ask grown men without kids to get a job or even do job training or volunteer work. I think Arkansas taxpayers deserve better than that.“
We deserve better than dishonesty from the U.S. senator from Arkansas.
The law not only requires grown men (and women) without kids to get a job or job training, the law requires it. FactCheck.org examined this issue in depth several months ago, as right-wingers like Cotton pushed for more stringent work rules. It noted:
Under current SNAP rules implemented in 1996, able-bodied adults without dependents, or ABAWDs, between the ages of 18 and 49 are required to work at least 20 hours a week or participate in a qualified job-training or volunteer program in order to be eligible for more than three months of benefits over a three-year period. Benefits are cut off after three months if the work requirements are not met and the applicant has not received a waiver
Cotton and others of his mean ilk wanted to raise the age of the work requirement to 59, increase the number of hours of required work and include adults with children older than six. They also wanted to make it harder for states to waive the rule in areas of high unemployment. But to flatly say grown men without kids aren’t asked to work? It’s not true. Cotton knows it. That’s the functional equivalent of a lie. Had his preferred plan won out, more than 1 million people would have been deprived of fairly paltry SNAP (food stamp) benefits, worth about $150 a month on average.
The legislation approved this week does slightly stiffen the ability for states to waive the work rule, though as McClatchy explains, it’s largely symbolic. Governors will be in charge of the applications for waivers. We can count on states like Arkansas, with Republican governors, to be parsimonious. California, a particular target of Cotton and allies, has a Democratic governor and has used the waiver widely. It will likely continue to do so.