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Rep. LaMalfa pockets his farm subsidies, votes to cut food stamps

September 20, 2013|By Michael Hiltzik
  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, voted to cut food stamps but collected millions in farm subsidies.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, voted to cut food stamps but collected millions… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

Let's visit again with Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who distinguished himself a few months back by making it into Rep. George Miller's Hall of Hypocrites by pocketing millions in farm subsidies for his family farm while acting to slash food stamp benefits for the poor.

This week, the House of Representatives voted again on food stamps. LaMalfa voted with the Republican majority to cut $40 billion from the program over 10 years. That would be devastating, if the Senate concurred. (It won't.) The cuts were double those in an earlier version. They'll throw nearly 4 million people off the food stamp rolls next year and 3 million more a year after that, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

These include some of the most destitute people in America. Among the bill's harshest provisions is a requirement that limits benefits for jobless adults to just three months out of every three years. Up to now, states with high unemployment could get a waiver from that rule, because so many adults couldn't find work. The House bill eliminates the waiver.

That brings us back to LaMalfa. As I reported back in June, the Central Valley Republican collected $5.1 million in government crop subsidies from 1995 through 2012 for the farm he co-owns with family members. That didn't stop him from citing the Bible and his Christian faith in advocating a steep cut in food stamps. 

"I think we're all pretty loving people here, that want to help the poor," he told his fellow members of the House Agriculture Committee at the time. "To think that we can't retract just a little bit of the spending [on food stamps] over something that's grown exponentially in the last three or four years to try to get this reform in place." He called the $20-billion cut a "modest" change.

He said helping the poor should be the job of individuals or the church because then "it comes from the heart, not from a badge or from a mandate." Farm subsidies? Apparently that's different.

Through his staff, LaMalfa claims that he's voted to end the farm subsidy programs that made him so much money. That's a half-truth, or maybe a micro-truth. As the conservative American Enterprise Institute observed, the House actually voted to replace the old programs with new ones that could cost taxpayers as much as four times the original handouts. Nice.

Is LaMalfa embarrassed about his vote? When I asked his legislative director, Kevin Eastman, to confirm LaMalfa's "aye" vote on the food stamp cuts late Thursday, he sidestepped the question. 

He emailed me: "The congressman voted today the same way he did when he voted to eliminate farm subsidies: for reform." 

But the record is public. He voted yes. So LaMalfa's approach to "reform" is plain: For farmers like himself, it means more money. For people struggling to get by, it means less food on the table. 

Miller (D-Martinez) was courteous enough toward his fellow congressmen to not explicitly call them "hypocrites." But we don't have to be so polite, do we, Rep. LaMalfa?

ALSO:

Throwing the middle class off the fiscal cliff

Rep. George Miller's roster of farm-bill hypocrites

Families on food stamps would suffer while farms get fat

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