Melissa Harris Perry
updated 5/26/2013 5:47:55 PM ET 2013-05-26T21:47:55

Who wants to end nutritional benefits to 2 million people? Melissa Harris-Perry names all 36 House members who voted for cuts last week.

The House Agricultural Committee approved a farm bill May 15 that would cut $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program formerly known as food stamps. These cuts would end benefits for 2 million people; most of those who benefit from SNAP are children and the elderly.

On Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry, the show identified all 36 Representatives who voted for the bill. Panelists then discussed the politics of food, from corporate agricultural subsidies to the racist assumptions that underpin the drive to cut Food Stamp benefits.

Video: The lawmakers who voted to let poor children go hungry

  1. Closed captioning of: The lawmakers who voted to let poor children go hungry

    >>> this is the website for the house committee on agriculture . the guy at the top there is republican congressman from oklahoma, frank lucas . the chairman of the committee. the headline, house ad committee approves farm bill with significant savings and reform. they voted 36-10 to pass its version of the farm bill . the legislation that helps set our national agricultural policy and which must be renewed every five years. when they voted for it, those 36 members of congress pushed forward a bill that cuts more than $20 billion in funding over the next ten years from the supplemental nutritional assistance program or snap. previously known as food stamps . the house ag committee is proud to have slashed a program that has a 96% efficiency rate. proud to cut a program that lifts millions from poverty, proud to have decimated that puts food on the table of children, the elderly and disabled. nearly 2 million people could become ineligible for the benefits if this farm bill becomes law. these 36 members of congress have voted to let people go hungry. as the website suggests, they seem to be proud of it. i think they ought to be ashamed. these are the members of the house agricultural committee. democrats and republicans who decided to slash aid to the neediest families. these are the 36 members who agreed that kids and families struggling to eat are the best one toss bear the burden of government cuts. these are the people who are proud of taking food off the table. but it looks like a shame scroll to me. joining me again are former virginia governor , doug wilder and pbs news hour editor christi christina. new to the table, james weill of the food, research and and lori silver bush the co-director of a place at the table, a documentary out about food and security in nerk. at the bottom of the screen we'll run a list of every member of congress with twitter handles who voted for that farm bill and committee, therefore, cutting snap benefits. feel free to get in touch with them if you like. why are snap benefits part of the farm bill , christina?

    >> this was built in part because the agricultural bill, the farm bill mostly had agricultural sub sudden is. you only had people in the -- that wanted to support it. people in more urban areas weren't necessarily in favor of it. this was a compromise to get everyone together and pass something that would set the agricultural and nutritional policy. so it's been decades. the supplemental nutrition system's program, actually got senator tom coburn , a conservative republican from oklahoma wants to change that back to the name food stamps because he's saying it's not actually about nutrition because you can buy soda and junk food .

    >> which of course is part of the reason those things are available is because the farm bill under writes the -- which sweetens those products.

    >> there's a lot of policy and gets at the nutritional foundation and the policy of this country. it's not an issue that should necessarily be looked at as a food stamp fight except that it end up being a huge portion of that actual bill.

    >> jim, i am -- i guess i must be enough of an optimist that i am still shocked that 36 members of the house, including democrats, would be voting to take food off of the table of children, of the elderly, of disabled people . why is it so easy for them to cast this vote?

    >> a lot of -- the democrats split, the republicans all voted. the democrats split. a lot of them who voted yes on this are from farm districts where they think their interests are supporting farmers and they want to cut food stamps to do that. the participation for food stamps in rural areas is as high as it is in urban areas because there's so much rural poverty. so much low wage et cetera . this bill which targets mostly working families and seniors hits everybody's district really hard. we need rural legislators as well as the urban and suburban ones to understand that.

    >> what is it exactly that snap does? i think part of the reason the desire to go back to the food stamp language has less to do whether it's about nutrition or not and more about the idea that it's easy to label people with this food stamp language.

    >> there's no question about it, melissa. actually, when my co-director and i were traveling the country meeting people who were on snap, they defied stereotypes. we recently brought a bunch of them to meet congress people. one was a tax attorney, an eisenhower fellow. someone who travels the globe teaching leadership goals and she said i was on snap as a child. you didn't even know me and you made sure i could eat. today you're trying to say that 17 million children like i was shouldn't have the same opportunity to repay society? these are investments. these are nutrition programs. not handouts.

    >> i'm looking up again at our screen. i'm looking at the names, going past. these are the names of the representatives, 36 of them who voted to cut billions from this program, would literally take food off the table and we're putting their names up because in part, this happened around gun legislation. this idea that people were unwilling to vote for man chin, fine, stand by that. you can see votes in committee, people feel the pressure. the reality is we're in a circumstance where we have folks voting to take food off the table. do you think that our shame scroll is effective, governor?

    >> i think you're to be commended for bringing the issue to the forefront and letting people know what's going on. i was saying to jim earlier, one of my earlier acts in the general assembly as a senator was to introduce a bill that would have either a food stamp or commodity distribution. virginia had neither. i'm not talking about 100 years ago.

    >> right.

    >> this was in the early '70s. so once we finally got it into place, people had no idea who benefited from it. your story is so well-told in terms of people who otherwise wouldn't have been fared. education is key toward letting the public know what is going ton. what legislation contains, what is the actual level of debate and what the real issues are. that's why it's very good of you to do this.

    >> people don't believe that there are actually hungry americans. sometimes when we do our food insecurity work, people say no, not possible. in this country, i'm trying not to eat. i'm on a diet this week. there are folks going hungry.

    >> it's made complicated by many people not getting adequate nutrition appear obese and fat. it's because people don't understand how the two are conflat conflated, as you pointed out, when foods are heavily subsidized they become inexpensive. if you have a limited income as a family, you spend as many calories you can get into your children. that's often raman noodles, junk food . it's penny wise pound foolish to think about cutting the nutrition programs that give kids the nutrition they need to learn. why are we investing in school if we don't have --

    >> we're not investing in schools. we're going to do that in the second hour.

    >> these types of conversations are happening and no one is calling out the rampant hypocrisy behind this when you have the representatives and the senators in major agricultural states who are taking handouts left and right.

    >> yeah.

    >> meanwhile voting to cut benefits, food for poor kid.


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