River Bend Foodbank CEO Mike Miller shouldn't have to fight this hard. But in the United States of 2018, even feeding the poor is a political dumpster fire.
At the very least, the region's congressional delegation, Republican and Democrat alike, are on Miller's side.
Miller's clearly a man who'd rather be cataloging proteins in his warehouse than lobbying for public policy. But there Miller sat on Wednesday, defending programs that feed thousands of men, women and children every day throughout the Quad-Cities to this editorial board.
It's the U.S. House of Representatives that's driven Miller to pound the pavement and campaign for his life's work. More specifically, it's the House's draft of the farm bill that's forced Miller, and those like him throughout the country, to sit with editorial boards and fly to Washington for meetings with lawmakers.
That's because House Republicans have mounted a classist bid to decouple further nutritional assistance programs from agricultural policy by ramming unnecessary additional work requirements on those who receive nutritional aid, commonly known as "food stamps." It's an attempt to scuttle a long-standing marriage that means both rural and urban members of Congress have a stake in the farm bill's success, a political reality that the Senate draft would rightly continue.
About two million Americans, including hundreds of thousands of children, would lose access to nutritional programming should the likes of House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, prove successful, reported The New York Times.
The last farm bill, passed in 2013, is scheduled to lapse at the month's end. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois, both sit on the committee tasked with reconciling the vastly different versions offered by the House and Senate. And, thanks to a small, but vocal right-wing House contingent, those close to the negotiations are actively discussing the possibility that the farm bill sunsets without an agreement. Those prospects have some speculating that, in an election year, a short-term extension would be jammed into an omnibus spending package in lieu of actually getting a multi-year package done.
For her part, Ernst supported the Senate version and has steadfastly defended the bill, which moved through the upper chamber with bipartisan support. Bustos, like almost all House Democrats, opposed her chamber's ridiculously cruel attempt at poor-shaming while pandering to gross stereotypes about "welfare queens" gaming the taxpayer. And, for his part, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, launched an unsuccessful right-minded bid to do right by taxpayers and inject greater oversight into the farm subsidy racket, a legitimate source of concern, unlike the fairy tales in the House draft.
When it comes to the farm bill, this region can boast a congressional delegation that's unanimously on the right side.
But over years, the House has devolved into a hyper-partisan, fact-free zone where ideology reigns. It started in the 1990s under then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. It grew untenable after the tea party wave of the Obama years, which birthed House Freedom Caucus, a cabal of about three dozen uncompromising ideologues. And legislation ending earmarks — at the time, lauded as a victory over pork — has killed almost any reason for consensus building.
And it's the House that aims to tear asunder a decades-old pact between rural and urban that kept American agriculture functioning. It's the House that threatens a deal that's served well the Quad-Cities, an urban region that lives and dies with the U.S. agricultural economy and rural development. It's the House that's made feeding the poor a political minefield in the most wealthy country in human history. And it's the House that's forced those such as Mike Miller to walk that ground whether they care to or not.
Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Matt Christensen, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander and community representative John Wetzel.