One of the most relevant issues in modern America is the overwhelming level of income inequality. The Barack Obama administration plans to establish 2014 as a ‘year of action’ and hopes to address the pressing issue of income inequality substantially.

Currently, 66% of Americans believe the government ought to take action to narrow the gap between upper and lower economic classes.

In addition to harming the middle and lower classes of society, income inequality also has a significant impact on federal debt. As more people move from the middle class to the lower class, federal welfare spending increases to accommodate, which contributes to the United States’ already tremendous debt.

However, bipartisan legislation has already been brought up that may do more harm to lower classes. Revisions made to the Farm Bill—“a five-year congressional funding program for agriculture and hunger programs”—will result in an $8.7 billion funding cut to food stamps for Americans over the next 10 years. The food stamp program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) aids one in seven people.

The Farm Bill revisions additionally secure government subsidies to Koch industry subsidiaries in biomass and exempts chemical runoffs from forestry sites from government regulation under the Clean Water Act. Lobby reports indicate that Koch industry lobbyists were heavily influential in the Farm Bill legislation.

The funding cuts are expected to impact 850,000 American households through the next decade. Unfortunately, the congressional measure also comes after a $5 billion reduction to the food stamp program on November 1, 2013.

The lower income populations of Pennsylvania and New Jersey are two of many states that anticipate significant harm. In Pennsylvania, “roughly 175,00 households will lose an average of $65 a month,” which can be particularly devastating for the poor.  A source quotes, “In New Jersey, an estimated 157,000 households will have their benefits cut.”

The Farm Bill legislation, signed by Obama, arrives surprisingly shortly after his recent declarations of action towards income inequality. It continues to subsidize large agricultural corporations at the expense of lower income individuals and will expect to provide difficulties for food stamp recipients over the course of the next decade.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: Philly, Huffington Post, ABC News, CNN, The Nation
Photo: RI Future


Earlier this month the House of Representatives narrowly passed a highly contested Farm Bill. A new farm bill is passed every five years or so and the current bill is set to expire in September 2013. If the bill expires without a new bill in place then legislation reverts to a 1949 law, which could mean significant price increases.

This is the first farm bill since 1973 that has not included a food stamp program component. Historically, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) was an important component of the bill because it linked urban nutrition concerns with rural farming policy concerns and garnered support for the farm bill. This split has caused quite an outcry from numerous organizations and politicians.

The bill also halts the implementation of increased food safety and calls for more study of the new safety program. Those involved with food safety expressed concern and displeasure about the barriers to the new program which would result in the FDA having increased control over safe food production.

The bill passed 216 to 208 with no Democrats voting for it and 12 Republicans voting against it. Many are criticizing the bill as being detrimental to America’s standards of nutrition. 532 farm organizations, including America’s biggest farm lobby, requested that the bill not be split. Interestingly, the split has displeased groups on both sides of the issue. While the Democrats are focused on the loss of food stamp funding, conservative organizations argue that it still contains too much government involvement and funding for certain farming sectors that would raise costs.

A pledge has been made that a food stamp bill will be embarked upon next but it is clear that heavy cuts in assistance funding are still intended. In contrast to the House farm bill the Senate bill still contains the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a primary component. It is not clear what kind of compromise can be reached between the radically different versions of the farm bill. However, it seems certain to negatively impact the more than 47 million poor Americans who rely on the food stamps for basic sustenance.

– Zoë Meroney

Sources: Reuters, NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, USA Today
Photo: Business Week