Congresswoman Speier Pleads to Save Food Stamps
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Published on Sep 19, 2013
Mr. Speaker, thank you. You know, in my district, California 14, we have about 4,000 families who are on food stamps, but some of my colleagues have thousands and thousands more. Yet, they somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps. Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar. They receive money to do this. That's right, they don't pay out of pocket for these meals. Let me give you a few examples. One member was given $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. He probably had a fare amount of steak. Another member was given $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. He probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar. That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days. Another 20 members made a trip to Dublin, Ireland. They got $166 a day for food. These members didn't pay a dime. They received almost $200 for a single meal only for themselves. Yet, for them the idea of helping fellow Americans spend less than $5 a day makes their skin crawl. The faces of families of veterans, of farmers, of the disabled, of the working poor are not visible to them, not even when they are their own constituents.
Last week, a man named Ron Shaich wrote on his LinkdIn page. He's the founder and CEO of Panera bread. He wrote, despite wanting to fight hunger and poverty in America, he really didn't know what it was like to be truly hungry. And so Ron is taking the SNAP challenge. The millionaire food mogul is living on $4.50 a day. I've taken the snap challenge, and I can tell you it is a horrible experience. You think about food constantly. You are always hungry. But those on food stamps live on $4.50 every day, not for one week, for long into their future. That is so crushing.
Historically, food stamps have been part of the farm bill. It's that same bill that 26 corporate farmers who remain nameless get $1 million each in subsidies meant for real farmers. The taxpayers are giving $7 billion per year to large agribusiness, yet, Republicans feel SNAP programs cost us too much money. They want to cut it.
Mr. Speaker, I can stand here and say that my point is about saving food stamps from cuts. That's true. But my larger point is about us as a country, as a society, as neighbors. I'm a member of the least productive congress in the history of this country. I'm ashamed of that. To be honest, if the federal government shut down for a couple of weeks, as we keep hearing, would Americans even notice? When a government of the people or for the people becomes a government in spite of the people, then who are we really serving? If we refuse to take care of those who are the most vulnerable at a tiny fraction of the costs that, say, our defense budget, don't we cease to be true public servants? Ron Shaich is putting himself in the worn-out shoes of 48 million fellow Americans. I am ready to do the same again.
I wonder how many of my Republican colleagues would want to cut food stamps if they had taken the SNAP challenge. After all, that means no more steak, no more caviar or vodka. Based on these members' eating habits, I wonder if they could survive.
I yield back.
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