Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) agitated against food aid for poor Americans included in the Farm Bill during last week’s House Agricultural Committee debate, accusing the government of stealing “other people’s money.” Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has already been decimated in both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, cutting off nearly 2 million working families, children, and seniors from food assistance.
Fincher invoked the Bible in his defense of the devastating cuts, quoting, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
At a Holiday Inn in Memphis over the weekend, Fincher expanded on his version of the Christian social gospel: “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.”
While Fincher interprets food assistance for the needy as “stealing,” he has not similarly condemned the Farm Bill’s massive agricultural subsidies. In fact, he supported a proposal to expand crop insurance by $9 billion over the next 10 years. Fincher has a great personal stake in maintaining these particular government handouts, as the second most heavily subsidized farmer in Congress and one of the largest subsidy recipients in Tennessee history:
USDA data collected in EWG’s 2013 farm subsidy database update — going live tomorrow — shows that Fincher collected a staggering $3.48 million in “our” money from 1999 to 2012. In 2012 alone, the congressman was cut a government check for a $70,000 direct payment. Direct payments are issued automatically, regardless of need, and go predominantly to the largest, most profitable farm operations in the country.
Fincher’s $70,000 farm subsidy haul in 2012 dwarfs the average 2012 SNAP benefit in Tennessee of $1,586.40, and it is nearly double of Tennessee’s median household income. After voting to cut SNAP by more than $20 billion, Fincher joined his colleagues to support a proposal to expand crop insurance subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years.
As the Environmental Working Group notes, crop insurance subsidies have no limits on their recipients’ income levels. Therefore, the bulk of the crop insurance is paid out in million-dollar installments to a small group of large farm businesses, while the bottom 80 percent of farmers receive roughly $5,000 a year. SNAP, on the other hand, limits aid to income below 130 percent of the federal poverty line, or $30,000 per year for a family of four.