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Ideology over Reality: Noem Votes for Unnecessary GOP Food Stamp Cuts

Last updated on 2013.09.25

Representative Kristi Noem demonstrated her continuing contempt for the poor by voting for the House GOP's nowheresville food stamp bill yesterday. South Dakota's lone Congresswoman defends her vote with the usual false exaggerations of waste and fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program:

This bill puts integrity back into the food stamp program to ensure that those who need assistance the most receive it,” Noem said in a written statement following the vote. “These reforms return work incentives to the program while curbing fraud, waste and abuse and refocusing benefits on families most in need. We need to ensure we have good policies in place that people can get behind and support, and I believe this bill does that. I’m pleased that the farm bill is now one step closer to completion” ["Noem, House Cut Food Stamp Funds," AP via Mitchell Daily Republic, 2013.09.20].

The legislation Noem and the Republican Party support don't directly attack waste, fraud, and abuse; they just cut funding and tighten benefits. Payment error has been declining over the past decade. SNAP is a model of efficiency for public assistance programs.

Rep. Noem says this bill is great because it ends waivers that allow able-bodied adults to receive SNAP benefits indefinitely. The able-bodied Noem and her able-bodied family have received farm subsidies indefinitely, so far totaling millions of dollars. If I'm being generous, I conclude that the Noem-Arnold family's acceptance of farm subsidies proves that sometimes even able-bodied people experience adverse conditions that justify giving them financial assistance.

As I noted Tuesday, the waivers Noem finds so nefarious are really flexibility granted to state governors to waive work requirements in places with really tough job markets. Here's a more thorough explanation:

In 1996, two conservative House Republicans offered an amendment to the welfare bill to limit food stamps to adults aged 18-50 who aren't raising minor children to three months while unemployed out of every three years. If such individuals were not employed at least 20 hours a week or participating in a workfare or job training program at least 20 hours a week, their benefits would end after three months. The amendment passed and became law.

Most states and local workforce boards don't run large-scale workfare or training programs for these individuals, and for most of these people, no places are made available in such programs. If they can't find a job, their food stamps are cut off.

The measure's sponsors defended the provision in 1996 against charges that it was draconian, partly by stressing that it explicitly authorized governors to seek temporary waivers from the three-month cut-off for areas that had high unemployment or otherwise lacked sufficient jobs. Since 1996, governors of both parties have requested and received such waivers, especially during the recent years of high unemployment [Bob Grenstein, "Eric Cantor Is Misrepresenting the House SNAP Cuts," Huffington Post, 2013.09.16].

Taking more than three months to find a job is often a product of the economy, not laziness. SNAP recognizes that fact and gives governors the ability to waive that three-month cut-off when local economic conditions warrant. Rep. Noem prefers to take away that state-level authority just for an ideological buzz. She shouts You lazy bastards! Get to work! even as she votes for a bill that does nothing to fund the job training programs that it requires recipients to join and that only a few states make available.

Meanwhile, Kristi Noem's able-bodied husband Bryon continues to make a living selling federally subsidized crop insurance instead of getting a real job that doesn't rely on government checks.... at least that's what a congresswoman who means the things Rep. Noem says about food stamps would say to a man like Bryon.

Folks on food stamps, you are our neighbors, our fellow citizens. You deserve our help, just as I hope you'd help others if the tables were turned. That help shouldn't be piled with a bunch of conditions... but I'd like to ask you to do this one thing in return. If you've been able to keep from yourself or your kids from going hungry thanks to food stamps, I ask you to come vote next year and vote for whoever runs against Kristi Noem. There are currently over 54,000 of you old enough to vote; bring a friend to vote, and that's more than enough people to kick Noem's selfish politics out of office.

Related Reading: Mr. Larson agrees that Rep. Noem is waging war on the poor. Mr. Powers reprints Noem's press release. Powers also says work requirements and drug tests should be necessary for recipients of government assistance, but fails to connect those dots to the Noem family.

Update 10:31 CDT: Jim Wallis makes a similar point about the hypocrisy of rich Congresspeople taking farm subsidies while un-Christianly (un-Jewishly, immorally) picking on the poor. MSNBC notes that Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey voted to cut food stamps after whining about only making $172K in Congress.


  1. Steve O'Brien 2013.09.20

    In the old world of give-and-take politics, the Farm Bill made political sense (yes, "political sense" is an oxymoron) to me: both sides got to look out for their constituents (farmers and the hungry). It was an odd pairing certainly, but a mutually beneficial horse trade that kept support for both entities. When the GOP separated the two elements, it ensured that the affluent kept their subsidies because they were on the GOP's side, and once farm spending was secured, the hungry /poor could be cut to fund the bill. It became anti-Robin Hood, take-and-take politics. It has become a sign of new politics: I'll get mine and the rest of you can suffer.

    About half of the abled body workers on STAMP currently are employed ( The "Walmart" effect of low wages force people putting in the hours, but not getting the pay, to be forced onto public assistance. The focus on these so-called frauds ought to shine light on a starvation level minimum wage and corporate greed - not the hungry victims of corporate excess.

  2. Robin Page 2013.09.20

    It is time for the people of this state to stand up against the big corporate interests and their friends in Washington! Our state has thousands of poor people, most of them working at minimum wage jobs. We have thousands of Senior Citizens who struggle to make ends meet and sacrifice food money to pay copayments for medications and doctor visits. We have hundreds of farm families trying to provide healthy food and still stay in business. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Each of us has a family member, a friend or neighbor that are suffering from hard times. Don't we all have a moral responsibility to care for the well-being of each other? South Dakota can do better that Krist Noem or Mike Rounds.

  3. Douglas Wiken Post author | 2013.09.20

    Noem wants to return "integrity" to the program. Noem wouldn't recognize integrity if it landed like a 1000 bushels of wheat dropped from ten miles up.

    The GOP obstructionists are irritating for their absurd policy positions, but downright disgusting for their hypocrisy.

  4. Bill Dithmer Post author | 2013.09.20

    >From the War Toilet

    "Congresswoman Kristi Noem is absolutely right on this one. Returning a sunset clause for able-bodied adult recipients, and adding work incentives is about equity. It’s about these recipients being on the same playing field as those who fund the benefit for them in the form of taxes. The same goes for requiring those able bodied recipients to test for drugs"

    That sounds fine to me if, everyone that gets a check from the government has to take the same drug test to get that check. No exceptions!

    Judges, law enforcement, farmers, the governor, FSA workers, every elected official, and you get the point. After all what are they using their checks to buy?

    The Blindman

  5. Owen Reitzel Post author | 2013.09.20

    Here is what said on her Facebook page. Incredible!

    "The only people who are talking about shutting down the government are President Obama and supporters of his health care law. The reality is that the longer Obamacare has been the law, the more problems and issues it creates. I hear daily from South Dakotans who are angered and concerned about the rising costs of insurance and additional red tape passed on from Washington as a result of the law. Like and Share if you agree we can, and must, do better than Obamacare!"

  6. Owen Reitzel Post author | 2013.09.20

    "Like and Share if you agree we can, and must, do better than Obamacare!"

    This last sentence is what I want to address. Please tell us Rep. Noem what IS better than Obamacare? It's the eternal question that you've never answered!

    [CAH: Note, Owen, the irony here: the real solution is to Like our fellow citizens and Share the burden of covering health care costs for everyone. The last thing Kristi and the GOP want to do is Like and Share.]

  7. Bill Dithmer Post author | 2013.09.20

    Here here Owen great post

    The Blindman

  8. Owen Reitzel Post author | 2013.09.20

    Thanks Blindman. I totally agree with you on the drug testing. Anybody that gets government aid gets drug tested including Rep. Noem

  9. Cranky Old Dude 2013.09.20

    Somewhere it says the cut is $40B over ten years and that amounts to 5% but doesn't really say 5% of what. These things always make me suspicious: is this really a cut or is it a "cut" in the rate of spending growth?
    The EBT program is "administered" by large banks, just like any other fantastic plastic card and at a profit you can be sure.
    These programs are always such a can of worms: they do some amount of good but are subject to fraud and manipulation often by the very politicans that control them.
    In the end, I guess all you can hope for is that the program does more good than harm and that people don't have kids they can't feed (probably not always something you can plan for...).

  10. Porter Lansing 2013.09.20

    Your choice is just "bad farm karma", Ms. Noem. Never known a farmer/rancher that wouldn't share food with a needy neighbor. You've strayed from the core values we on the prairie were raised with. Are you asking for a blight or drought to befall the state?

  11. Donald Pay Post author | 2013.09.20

    Yeah, this isn't ideology. I could respect someone who had a consistent ideology of cuts to federal programs. A consistent ideological approach would be fairly easy to spot. You would see, for instance, Noem refusing to support government subsidies for powerful South Dakota interests, rejecting money that her family gets in subsidies and junking the corporate farm bill. She would insist on no subsidies to the mining interests, nuclear power interests, timber interests and road building interests, ie. those interests that support her campaigns.

    Someone like former Senator Bill Proxmire, while a liberal, had a consistent ideology of fiscal conservatism and opposition to government waste. He sought to defund programs that liberals liked and that conservatives liked. He fought to reform programs that we needed, to make them more efficient. He didn't accept large political donations, and never from any special interest. Noem has none of the sort of ideological integrity.

    For Noem this is about using the federal government to provide for income redistribution--taking from the poor to give to the rich, who will then distribute some of that money back to her and her campaign. She's not ideological in the least, and she doesn't care about making federal programs operate better. She's a typically weak, disgusting and corrupt politician who greases her own palm while doing the bidding of her connected and corrupting corporate sponsors.

  12. Roger Cornelius Post author | 2013.09.20

    Allow me to digress for a moment, I have a story.

    In the 70's and 80's the government had a program called CETA, Comprehensive and Training Act. At the time I lived on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where the tribe had approximately 1,000 workers.
    In those days, Rapid City wasn't as accessible as it is today for reservation shoppers so they spent their pay checks in nearby reservation Nebraska border towns.

    Most of the merchants I knew were die-hard Republicans, but we got along anyway. With the food stamp debate going on, I can still hear them complain about Jimmy Carter's "make work" program. One the grocers in a small Nebraska town was actually a good friend of mine and we often socialized and talked business and politics.

    When Ronald Reagan was elected, first on the Republican chopping block was the CETA program and the loss of those 1,000 jobs.

    The impact on my friend's grocery store was gradual, until a few years later he closed it. Retail sales and other business' were affected as well. Drug stores, clothing stores, auto sales were all impacted.

    Today, most of these mom and pop stores are barely sustainable and towns have had no growth or development. In fact, they never recovered and have spent the years since CETA on life support.

    I often wonder if those Republican business owners that cheered President Reagan and rejoiced when the CETA program was cut, are still celebrating their victory.

    The economic ripple effect runs deeper than most can imagine, Walmart's and big box stores will survive, will mom and pop?

  13. Stan Gibilisco Post author | 2013.09.20

    A couple of days ago, as I slithered ecstatically out of the Deadwood Rec Center oozing endorphins into the endosphere (whatever that is), I saw two headlines on the same page of the "Rapid City Journal." One of them said something about Syria, and how likely it is that we will take military action there. The other headline said that the national poverty rate has hit 15 percent (on the way up, presumably).

    Well now.

    Why don't we take the money that we would use to fight Syria, and use it instead to fight poverty?

    Oooooo, noooooo. Not possible. How dare I even think such a thing, much less utter it, as I did to the attendant there.

    She did however reply, "I'm with you."

    Two loons in the hills.

    Relevance: Spend the Syria war money on funds for the food stamp program.

  14. Joan Post author | 2013.09.20

    What a lot of people don't realize is that the people on food stamps also help keep grocery stores in business. This would especially apply to the Mom and Pop grocery stores, that are more apt to be in the small towns.

  15. Jerry 2013.09.22

    NOem and the rest of the republicans sound the drum of communism with their talk of work for food. I guess Michelle Bachmann was correct, when she said that the congress was full of them, turns out all she had do was look in the mirror along with NOem.

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