The latest grotesque joker of the American right
Two weeks ago a rightfully obscure right-wing hack who represents Indiana’s Third Congressional District, Marlin Stutzman, became the butt of every snide political joke about the dysfunctional bomb-throwing rump of the Republican Party when he honestly expressed his view of why the Republicans had shut down the government, and what it would take to secure a House vote to fund the federal government: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” Ten days later this particularly proto-fascist still doesn’t know what it will take to allow a fully functional national government. But that does not prevent him from continuing his campaign to wreck whatever might give even a modicum of assistance to the disadvantaged while still rolling about the swill himself.
Last Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that was dear to the heart of Congressman Stutzman: They gutted $40 billion from the SNAP program (commonly called Food Stamps), which provides supplemental nutritional assistance to children, the elderly, the disabled and the unemployed. This particularly act of meanness was, according to the organization of leaders of the brand of fundamentalism that Stutzman claims to subscribe to, was particularly un-Christian. The National Association of Evangelicals has sent a letter to every member of Congress expressly opposing, on Christian charitable grounds, this very piece of legislation:
“As generous as both our private and public food assistance programs are, however, we know from pastoral experience that many parents face excruciating choices between feeding their families, and paying for housing, transportation and medical care. The role of churches and charities is critical, but we can’t fill the all the gaps on our own.
“We need a public-private partnership in which each sector does its part. The SNAP program provides a basic floor of food security to children, the elderly, the unemployed, and those whose employment still leaves them in poverty. Churches can offer personalized, high-touch assistance that complements what government provides.
“During the Great Recession, the number of Americans needing food aid has understandably increased. Millions of families survived very hard times thanks in part to this assistance. Children were protected from irreversible developmental damage. Hunger-related health care costs were averted. As the economy improves, the number of beneficiaries will diminish. We thank God that our nation has maintained this safety net during these hard times.
“Evangelicals are strong proponents of fiscal responsibility. We support efforts to reduce our annual deficits and enact structural reforms to bring our revenues and expenses back into balance. But we believe this can be done without further burdening our most vulnerable citizens, and without cutting appropriations for vital food assistance programs.”
These are not the words of some Socialist group, but rather the very allies that brought this motley group of libertarians, anti-women, authoritarian, anti-democratic hacks into the U.S. government in 2010 (when Stutzman himself began his misadventures in Washington).
But as much as the New Right proclaims its fealty to the word of the Lord, there is a higher calling: selfish greed. And this required some maneuvering and some short-term sacrifice by the likes of Congressman Stutzman. You see, Stutzman is a commercial farmer. And commercial farmers get a lot of money from the federal government. Being a successful farmer, Stutzman pays taxes to that same government. But being a Tea Partier, Stutzman believes that a citizen’s only relation to the government ought to be as a recipient of corporate (but not individual) welfare.
To prevent farm interests from stuffing their bank coffers from the public treasury while stiffing the poor, a deal had long ago be struck that kept Food Stamps as part of the pork bills that paid farmers like Stutzman. (This meant that the political puppets of agribusiness would have to throw some crumbs to the poor in order to gorge their patrons.) But Stutzman hated taxes that went to the needy so much that he helped engineer the separation of the SNAP program from the Farm Subsidy Bill. This act of un-Christian Ayn Randism even cost him his leadership role in the Republican Party because it defied the recommendation of the Speaker. So Stutzman lost his job as assistant House whip. But that is a small price to pay to screw nutritional assistance to the hungry while permitting lavish benefits to farmers like himself. And last Saturday the culmination of his efforts came to fruition when the House succeeded in cutting $40 billion from food aid to the poor.
And Stutzman was quite proud of this legislative accomplishment:
“This bill eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path,” said Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana, who led efforts to split the food stamps program from the overall farm bill. “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.”
You see it wasn’t mere sullied greed or even un-Christian meanness that led to this vote. It was a desire to make government work. And, of course, aid to the poor only works if it gets the children, elderly, sick and jobless back to work (without offering any jobs). His own life is an example of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps without help from anyone.
You see Stutzman had suffered the unfair fate of not receiving a bachelor’s degree from either Glen Oaks Community College or Tri-State University, where he worked hard for two years. So instead of pitying himself, he took the bull by the horns and joined his father’s farming corporation where he is now co-owner with his dad. This kind of Horatio Alger story must give the soon-to-be-hungry children an example. Assuming they live long enough.
As for his view of how government programs must be evaluated, namely that if they work they should show it by being phased out: Expect him to be advocating for the elimination of the Farm Aid Bill. Sure there was a big increase once the troublesome SNAP business was shorn from it. But that’s only to be expected. Call it a gratuity to those self-dealers who saved the taxpayers’ money from the rapacious jaws of the malnourished. A one-time thing, we should expect. On the other hand, if decades of money to agricultural interests actually worked, farmers shouldn’t need it any more. So you can bank on Rep. Stutzmann next year arguing for the elimination of the Farm Aid Bill altogether.
And what about the military? For years we have spent nearly 1/2 of the entire planet’s expenditure on weapons and soldiers. Surely that must have eliminated much of the threat from our enemies. So expect Mr. Stutzman to lead the charge for drastic ($40 billion should be an easy start) cuts to the Pentagon.
Who knows where else Farmer Marlin will find savings? But expect something big. We just don’t know what that is yet. To quote Mr. Stutzman himself: “I don’t know what that even is.”