Monday, February 10, 2014

Red Meat & Reticence

Even as the Olympics began ramping up last week, that big event pushed other stories out of the headlines, much like the daylong correction and apologies of many media organizations surrounding the right-wing lies about the CBO report on Obamacare.

In all the distractions, much of the greater media also missed key stories about immigration and the farm bill that came down last week. Greg Sargent, as he often does, had a fantastic roundup Friday of the issues surrounding immigration reform - and we highly recommend you read his work on the subject, and all the pieces he recommended as well.

The Farm & Food bill that President Obama signed into law on Friday received no similar wide-angle roundup from anyone - sadly, not a surprise in today's media environment. So we rounded up some of the best explanations about the bill, that's now law.

Brad Plumer summarized the bill in a great chart two weeks ago, making it instantly clear where the $956 billion in funding went. As Plumer also noted last week, many people - both inside and outside of Congress - hated the bill. David Dayen made brutally clear that the Farm & Food bill once again gave wads of cash to agribusness. Congress just gave the money away in a sneakier way. Meanwhile, the "compromise" on food stamps wasn't really a compromise at all. As Ned Resnikoff made clear, Congress didn't compromise between raising or lowering the amount of help poor Americans would get on food issues. The only "compromise" members of Congress made was in how much they pandered to the extremists on the right and to big ag - and how badly they were going to screw over the poor.

The bill wasn't as bad as it could have been, though, and after almost three years of fighting over how generously they were going to reward the rich agribusnesses, and screw the poor, both the House and Senate passed the bill, and President Obama signed it into law last Friday.

It should be noted that even in the midst of bad weather and other commitments, for better or worse, several powerful Democrats - some up for re-election this year - stood with President Obama as he signed the Farm Bill. Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress, who will most assuredly take credit for the parts of the bill that rewarded their corporate donors, didn't have the courage to stand with the President as he signed the bill they helped to pass.

If a bill - now a law - like this makes you angry, we understand that feeling, and we empathize with you.

Billions of taxpayer dollars are unnecessarily going to whiny, ungrateful billionaires who have been perpetually claiming they work harder than 99% of Americans, thanks in part to this Farm & Food law. Meanwhile, millions of Americans who've been desperately searching for jobs that simply don't exist have been ignored on both unemployment and now again on food assistance.

There are many reasons for this failure, one of which is that poor Americans of all kinds - along with women, minorities, and left-leaning political groups and SuperPACs - have for far too long sat out the midterm elections in this country. Whether it's because of the two or three jobs they're working, or because the members of those left-leaning political groups got their political panties in a bunch because President Obama couldn't precisely control the outcome of any number of bills that 535 members of Congress sent him, or because of simple tribalism, those voters stayed home in 2010. As we all know now, that allowed the obstructionist and insane tea party extremists to take over Congress - and do nothing ever since.

Unfortunately, it already looks like the biggest SuperPAC on the left, Priorities USA, has already decided to make this same mistake again, by staying completely out of the races in 2014. Apparently, they've decided to put all their money on the chance that Hillary Clinton can take it all in 2016. We don't think we need to remind anyone that the President isn't the Green Lantern, and he - or she - won't be able to do very much if they don't have a decent Congress, and decent progressive officials at the state and local levels.

That kind of failure and reluctance on the part of the 99% to get involved in politics, and stand up for their share of the Federal budget, has also continued to allow the rich and corporations to pick the choicest cuts off the budget, while those Americans most in need of help are still getting just the leftover scraps.

As long as any of the 99% stay on the sideline, scraps and bones is all the 1% will ever toss to us.