Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

The uphill battle mayors have to fight to remove soft drinks from SNAP assistance

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The following column ran June 25 on our sister site, BalanceofFood.com. Getting rid of soft drinks from purchase with SNAP assistance should be a snap. Thanks to corporate pressure, and the politicians bought with such clout, the tasks of big city mayors will be that much tougher.

If soft drinks didn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup, would you be able to buy them with food stamps? Of course, you can also buy diet drinks on food stamps, but the primary reason for why you can buy soft drinks on food stamps is corporate pressure.

18 big city mayors are fighting to limit those receiving SNAP assistance from buying soft drinks with SNAP funds.

The mayors should have the liberals and conservatives on their side in the fight. Liberals don’t like the idea of buying soft drinks on food stamps because they’re not healthy. Conservatives don’t like the idea of buying soft drinks on food stamps because they’re cheating the government.

Yes, conservatives wouldn’t like the government to tell people what they can buy and not buy on food stamps, but the government already does this.

“It is time to test and evaluate approaches limiting SNAP’s subsidization of products, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, that are contributing to obesity,” — from the letter from the mayors to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

In the battle for a better food system, not being able to buy soft drinks with SNAP assistance is a no-brainer. So why does the chances of this happening are highly slim?

Conservatives, especially those in the House of Representatives, don’t like food stamps at all. We’ve seen this in the votes on the Farm Bill.

Some of them wouldn’t like SNAP even if it worked better or more efficient. Even though we believe heartily in food stamps, we know they can work better.

By spending more money on actual healthy food, the food assistance can work smarter to improve the lives of those who have suffered a setback. More work should be done to help people spend SNAP assistance at farmers markets in a true win-win. Well, a true win-win except for large corporations and the politicians that love them more than their constituents.

Many of these politicians in the House believe heavily in food spending to go to large farms that don’t need the subsidies, including literally their own pockets.

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) has been the most egregious of those who are willing to subsidize rich farmers instead of people struggling to eat, though Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is more famous of those who personally get large subsidies from the farm bill and vote against SNAP assistance.

Rep. Fincher, in responding to Biblical verses from Juan Vargas (D-CA) on taking care of the least of the brothers and feeding the hungry, responded with his own Bible quote from the Book of Thessalonians, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Fincher is quoting from a letter from Paul, not from the Gospels. The reference in the Bible is to people who gave up their jobs to wait for Christ’s Second Coming, certainly not applicable here. On top of that, the verse he quoted was exalted by socialists, including Vladimir Lenin.

We should also point out to Rep. Fincher that 80% of those on SNAP assistance are working.

The Environmental Working Group notes that Fincher has received nearly $3.5 million in federal subsidies from 1999-2012, nearly $560,000 in one year alone. Fincher reportedly got about $70,000 last year as a farm subsidy.

Fincher also supported a proposal to expand crop insurance by $9 billion over the next 10 years, a bill where he would literally personally benefit.

A couple hundred people in the House — not all of them Republican, but most of them. Let’s say half of the Senate, another 50 people. The thousands of people directly affected by the potential sales of soft drinks, though the factory worker won’t get as much out of the deal as corporate executives. Let’s be generous and say that adds up to 300,000 people. That’s 300,000 out of 300 million people who are in favor of people on SNAP assistance buying soft drinks. But they have the power.

Big city mayors are the politicians who see the impact of soft drinks in poor neighborhoods. They know what is at stake. Those in Washington? Honestly, not so much.

Conservatives cry out that Washington can’t run things as well as states can, because the states are closer to what the people want. Well, city mayors are closer than states. And the reason why Washington isn’t up to speed on this isn’t because Washington can’t do so. Lift the corporate pressure on politicians and you’ll be amazed at what Washington can do.

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