Moral ImperativeIn all of its infinite wisdom, our government passed the farm bill. The new farm bill’s budget guarantees direct payments to farmers regardless of their harvest quality or crop prices, an insurance policy that equates to $7 billion. The farm and insurance lobbies spent at least $52 million influencing lawmakers in the 2012 election cycle. And rather than thin the most expensive program in the nation’s farm safety net, Congress has agreed to funnel billions more to individuals who already are more prosperous than the typical American.

However, the 1,000-page mega-bill also cuts approximately about $9 million from food stamps. The cuts are said to trim an average of $90 a month in benefits from some 850,000 Americans who rely on the program. As Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana exclaimed, “This bill eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path. In the real world, we measure success by results. It’s time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.

In truth, the number of conservatives presuming constituents accepting public benefits are trying to pull a fast one over honest working Americans is stunning. In 2010, more than half of counties with high numbers of people struggling to feed themselves were in rural counties. Rural America is one of the GOP’s strongest geographic bases. Even with that, the Congressional Budget Office estimates nearly four million people would be removed from the food stamp program under the House bill starting next year, with an additional three million per year thereafter.  Republicans called food stamps “welfare” and cutting food stamps psuedo renames the Farm Bill as the “Work Opportunity Act.”

So after five years of recession and with 11.3 million people unemployed — 4.3 million out of work for 27 weeks or more — along with 7.9 million people working part-time but looking for full-time and another 2.3 million “marginally attached,” what the country needs is even more hungry people. On face value, my presumption is that if the rural poor had $52 million dollars to influence the conservative caucus, the Farm Bill would look radically different.

With that being said, working in poorer urban and rural areas for the Affordable Care Act has led to several conclusions.

  • First, 80 percent of the people come from some sort of dysfunctional family.
  • Secondly, a majority poor single mothers were exposed to the juvenile justice system or required social service intervention.
  • Third, there are places in their lives when our society could’ve intervened in their lives and nudged them off of their path. But we as a society simply didn’t give a shit.
  • Fourth, we could be providing early childhood care for economically disadvantaged and otherwise troubled kids, and we could be doing it for free. But we don’t.
  • Fifth, we could be providing special schools, at both the high school level and the middle school level, but even in K-5, that target economically and otherwise disadvantaged kids. There are a handful of states that do that; but states like Texas doesn’t.
  • Sixth, we could be intervening much more aggressively into dangerously dysfunctional homes, and getting kids out of them before their moms pick up butcher knives and threaten to kill them. If we really honor the sacrament of life that God gives us, we need a place to put them.

Strangely, conservatives always talk about a return on investment. Perhaps conservatives failed math class. But for every 15,000 dollars spent intervening in the lives of economically and otherwise disadvantaged, society can save 80,000 dollars in crime-related costs. Certainly our world is imperfect. Buddhism recognizes the need of certain minimum material conditions are favorable to spiritual success – even that of a monk engaged in meditation in some solitary place. But even if you don’t agree that there’s a moral imperative that we do it, it just makes economic sense.

Well, at least we saved farmer Fincher.  Representative Fincher, a farmer elected with Tea Party support, owns a farm and collected $3.5 million in farm subsidies from 1999 to 2012 (about $269,000 yearly).

How’s your moral imperative now?