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Food Stamp Battle; Obama vs. Romney - Part 2

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:50am
Chris HayesAssociated Press

xfdls UP-WITH-CHRIS-HAYES-01

<Show: UP WITH CHRIS HAYES>

<Date: July 14, 2012>

<Time: 08:00>

<Tran: 071401cb.450>

<Type: Show>

<Head: Food Stamp Battle; Obama vs. Romney - Part 2>

<Sect: News; Domestic>

<Byline: Chris Hayes>

<Guest: Joel Berg, Debbie Palacios, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Mark Bittman,

Seth Bixby Daugherty, L. Joy Williams, George Naylor, Mark Bittman, L. Joy

Williams, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, James Carville>

<High: The House Agriculture Committee voted to cut $16.5 billion from the

food stamp program or SNAP as part of the farm bill. Congressional Budget

Office estimates that two to three million people will lose their benefits

as a result of proposed changes to eligibility rules. This includes almost

300,000 children who would be ineligible for the free lunch program.>

<Spec: Agriculture; Budget; Business; Cities; Congress; Economy; Elections;

Food and Beverages; Government; Politics; Subsidies; Taxes>

You know, I just think that any food is better than no food. And obviously, I want people to eat healthy food. And so, the key, really, component to this issue is education. You know, so if you have money and you don`t know how to cook/shop, then it really makes it difficult to make good decisions based about around hunger.

So, that`s why I think these cooking matters classes that I help teach that Share our Strength help started, you know, actually the SNAP program funds these programs is so important because it really gives these people the knowledge of food and cooking, and it`s something that -- it`s a life skill that in our culture has been taken away, and it`s a shame.

HAYES: And your program is funded by SNAP and would be cut under the House bill if I`m not mistaken.

DAUGHERTY: Yes, yes. I personally feel I have this tremendous great gift of cooking, the most urging persistent question I ask myself every day is how do I take this gift to help other people. It would be a real shame to have that gift taken away from me by cutting these funds.

HEUVEL: How grossly counter productive, right? Here`s a program that on so many levels is doing good.

DAUGHERTY: We all have a certain gift in our life to be able to help and give back to other people. And mine just happens to be cooking, and I do everything in my power to try to use that gift.

HAYES: Also tie dyeing.

HEUVEL: There`s also a pragmatic. I mean, we haven`t talked -- I mean, $5 of SNAP money is $9 into a community, the investment.

HAYES: In terms of stimulative effect.

HEUVEL: So, it`s almost a back-door stimulative effect.

BITTMAN: This is through (ph) of all stimulus money, right?

HEUVEL: That`s right.

BITTMAN: Almost all government spending, in fact.

BERG: But particularly food stamps because food is still grown, processed, shipped, warehoused, manufactured in America creating American jobs. And one other point, the same things we need to do to fight hunger are exactly what we need to do to beat this obesity.

The New York City Coalition against Hunger has a program where we bring fresh produce from regional farms into low income neighborhoods. We subsidized it. We have waiting lists at most sites. If you build it, they will come. If you make healthier food affordable, physically available, and convenient, low income will eat it.

We don`t need to restrict what they get. We need to increase their purchasing power for healthier food.

HAYES: Chef.

DAUGHERTY: The hunger and obesity issue is one in the same. You know, that was a great point right there. You know, it`s the education piece. It ties right back to what I was saying. Yes. You know, we have to be able to give the people of America the gift of knowing how to shop and cook. And then, all of these issues will get better.

HAYES: Yes. But that`s -- I mean, people are working hard. I mean, I -- you know, I`m an incredibly privileged lucky person right now in my life, and I find myself like taking a lot of shortcuts in that respect, and I have it better than a lot of, a lot of, a lot, a lot of folks who are working their butts off or have three or four kids. It just seems like wooh, If that`s the thing that we need to do, like that`s a really -- that`s a tough uphill battle.

BITTMAN: You know, I think that cooking -- cooking, too, I think it`s really important. It answers, addresses a lot of issues. I do want to say one thing about what Seth said to get back to this -- to how food stamps can and should be used.

I agree that any food is better than no food, but soda is not food, and that`s why it should be restricted from food stamps being used to buy it, because it isn`t food. It`s bad. It`s not good. I mean, I hate to be black and white, but that --

HAYES: And soda in New York State -- we can say specifically New York State applied for a waiver that was denied by the USDA to be able to restrict the purchase of soda, specifically --

BITTMAN: Sugar soda, not diet soda, which could be worse for you.

HAYES: Sugar soda, right.

HEUVEL: This is kind of a pre-political conversation in a sense, because we`re not taking into account the enormous lobbies behind the soda industry.

HAYES: Oh, right. No.

HEUVEL: And we`re going to talk about the agro business.

HAYES: Right.

HEUVEL: And if you had a pro-people`s lobby, a low-income lobby, anti-hunger lobby, you would see something different, though, they`re not treated with the respect on Capitol Hill as you describe. They don`t have a pact.

(CROSSTALK)

HEUVEL: --you know, the campaign money.

HAYES: And Mark, you reported that after that Florida state senator, Ronda Storms, had proposed. She said she had Coca-Cola in her office the next day. And in fact, you know, the big food in Coca-Cola and so forth have fought strenuously and lobbied strenuously against --

BITTMAN: -- millions dollars.

HAYES: -- against any attempt to restrict food purchases. We`re going to talk about big food and big agriculture. Chef Seth Bixby Daugherty of Share our Strength, thanks for joining us.

DAUGHERTY: Thank you for having me.

HAYES: Debbie Palacios, thank you so much. It`s been great to have you here. We really, really appreciate you coming this morning.

PALACIOS: Thank you very much for having me.

HAYES: All right. The other side of the farm bill, big subsidies for big agriculture vacation. We`ve got to love the free market when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: A farm bill passed by the House Agricultural Committee this week not only cuts billions of the food stamps program but also rejects reforms to agricultural subsidies, reforms that were included in the Senate`s farm bill. The House bill, though, like the Senate bill, would finally end direct cash payments to farms, 26 of which received more than $1 million each last year alone.

And the savings from ending direct cash payments could have prevented the food stamp cuts that we`ve been talking about. Instead, however, the House Committee voted to funnel 70 percent of those savings from ending direct catch payments right back into farming interest in the form of subsidies for crop insurance and new price support program which pay farms when their crops sell for less then the predicted of market value.

Agriculture chairman, Frank Lucas, author of the House farm bill defended using the savings to subsidize farms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FRANK LUCAS, (R) OKLAHOMA: It is to make a living as a farmer. I still check the weather every day, usually multiple times a day, because I know at a moment`s notice, a dream crop can turn into a disaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining us now at the table is L. Joy Williams, founder of LJW Community Strategies, political consulting firm, and co-host of the Syndicated radio show, "This Week in Blackness." It`s great to have you here.

L. JOY WILLIAMS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Thank you.

HAYES: So, the reason I want to talk about both sides of this is -- you know, the farm bill to me exposes this fundamental misperception about our politics. When we`re in an election season, what happens is this. This particularly true from conservatives is, they want to make the election and every political conversation about first principles, about ideology, about vision. We believe in freedom, less government.

You want more government. And, I think, sometimes, liberals get suckered into having this very ideological battle, right? We have to defend. But, when you look at what Congress does, if you look at government under George Bush and Republican Congress, government as percentage of GDP crew (ph), right? There is no evidence that government under Republicans will shrink.

It`s simply a question of what the government will do and who will benefit. The farm bill is a perfect example, because here you have the House Republicans on the same day, on the same day that they vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act are coming up with new price support programs which sounds, frankly, positively soviet from the perspective of any other area of policy, right?

And subsidized crop insurance for farmers that are -- when we say farmers, largely massive agricultural interests and industrial farms. So, all this ideology, somehow, just disappears into the ether (ph) when the actual work of governing and legislating is happening.

So, I just think it`s important for people to look, stair into the gaping mall that it`s a farm bill, because it shows us what is really happening under ether (ph) politics, and it is not a battle between some ideology of less government and some ideology of more government. End of rant.

WILLIAMS: Well, it`s a prime example of pay attention to what I`m doing here, you know, this magic trick here, and not what I`m doing, you know, over here, you know? And so, it`s the -- the -- they`re trying to get the American people to follow what I`m saying, what, you know, I want you to believe as opposed to what I`m doing.

And most Americans aren`t going to read the text of a farm bill. They`re not going to read the text of the affordable care. You know, they`re believing the sound bites on what happens on news and what they read as opposed to looking, and they don`t have time, you know, to look through a farm bill and see this is contradictory to what they are telling you.

HAYES: And the farm bill is a perfect example of the kind of legislation that a small group of people pay very intensely --

(CROSSTALK)

BERG: You can`t understand.

HAYES: Right.

BERG: You can`t possibly parse it.

HEUVEL: But as stare into the gaping mall of the farm bill, what`s interesting is the role of government in our society has been settled. I mean, it is -- even those who attack it accepted it as were part of -- yes. I mean, it has been accepted. It wasn`t -- that wasn`t the case with Roosevelt.

That was -- the big debate about the role of government was still to come even with Johnson. But this is an intensely fought over battle partly not to be reductionist because you`ve got a lot of money going on.

HAYES: Of course.

HEUVEL: You`ve got the campaign spending and then the money to be made in agro business. Yes.

HAYES: I want to bring in George Naylor, a corn and soybean farmer from Churdan, Iowa, a member of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, former president of the Natural Family Farm Coalition. The interesting (ph) disclosure, I should say, I gave a paid speech to Iowa CCI back in 2010 prior to be coming full time here at MSNBC.

George, it`s wonderful to have you. What do you think of this farm bill?

GEORGE NAYLOR, CORN AND SOYBEAN FARMER: Well, I tell you this farm bill is one in a long series since the early 1950s that were aim at destroying the wisdom of the new deal. And as long as you, folks, make the frame that it should be discussed as welfare, then nobody will understand what the original farm bills in the new deal were really all about.

HAYES: Explain the difference and explain why the current way that we conceive of farm support doesn`t work.

NAYLOR: Well, you see, as you were talking about food stamps, we`re not going to eliminate poverty with food stamps. If people were given a minimum wage that was a living wage and people were guaranteed a decent job, you wouldn`t have to have -- you wouldn`t have to have food stamps, and the same way with farm programs.

If farmers were guaranteed an actual price in the marketplace, minimum price, a good price, and were given the tools to control supply so that the big corporations that buy our products would have to pay at that kind of price, you wouldn`t have to have subsidy payments.

HAYES: But isn`t -- but don`t we -- don`t we have price -- I mean, my understanding is there are price supports for a variety of the big five commodities.

NAYLOR: No, there have not -- you`re confusing the term "price support" with "income support."

HAYES: Right.

NAYLOR: An income support is like a welfare payment, a subsidy payment, when in fact, what the new original new farm -- the new deal farm programs did was guarantee farmers a fair price just like a minimum or a living wage would guarantee a fair wage.

HAYES: Right. So, that`s a key distinction here, right?

NAYLOR: Yes.

HAYES: As opposed to saying you can sell, you know, a bushel of wheat for "X" price and guaranteeing that price, our support system says if it`s less than $4, let`s say if it`s not $4, if it`s selling for $3 in the open market, we, the government, pay you the dollar difference, right? That`s the way income support works?

NAYLOR: That`s an income support when the government pays me money from the treasury. So, this is not about -- it should not be an issue about the federal budget. It has nothing do with the federal budget. What we have is another program in a long line of programs since the early 1950s.

It`s intended to guarantee cheap commodities to the big food corporation so they produce cheap processed food, cheap meat, milk, and eggs, and so, that there is no actual wise use of our land.

HAYES: So, let`s talk about that and talk about what is in the bill and who`s backing it and who is benefiting right after we take a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: George Naylor, farmer in Iowa, on the line with us here. George, one of the really perverse aspects of the way that these subsidies are structured is that they -- the bigger the enterprise, the more money it gets from the federal government. So, here`s an example of how this works. We have a graphic here that just shows under the last subsidy regime.

So, if you`re -- if the household income is above $200,000, your average in subsidies is $30,000 or more.

If your net income is lower, say 100,000, and you get less in subsidies and the people who get the least amount of help are those who are making the least amount of money, is there anything in what`s being done now with the end of direct payments switching to this crop insurance model that is going to change the way the distribution of benefits works such that big interests get the biggest payments?

NAYLOR: Well, I`m not sure there are going to be any big benefits from this farm program. I think this basically farmers are going to be on the free market. This farm bill`s not going to let the whole farm economy crash even if it`s a crazy agri business farm economy, so whatever you`re projecting there is intended to make sure that the system works.

It isn`t intended to make big farmers or small farmers or any other kind of farmer stay in business. It`s just intended to make the system perpetuate cheap food, cheap corn, cheap soybeans so that they can keep feeding animals in inhumane feed lots, corporate feed lots, and bring our food from allover the world from thousands of miles away and have everybody keep looking at this issue of welfare when, in fact, we should be asking what`s happening to the commons, what`s happening to the farmland.

You come out here to Iowa, you will see nothing but mono crop, corn, soybeans. You will see soil erosion that you wouldn`t believe and more and more use of pesticides because if you`re

only going to raise two crops over and over again, you`re going to have incredible problems with pests. So, this program doesn`t -- this farm bill nor any of the farm bills since 1953 have addressed any of these issues.

And we have -- you have to understand we have a Congress of the one percent. So, don`t expect anything to address any of these issues. This is a bipartisan policy on behalf of corporate agribusiness.

HAYES: Mark, this is something you`ve written about a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

BITTMAN: Hear, hear. I mean, it`s just right there. I mean, I`ve been -- I spent a week in Iowa last year, and the mono culture is really the thing that`s killing us and it is the thing that`s being most heavily subsidized.

NAYLOR: Could I interject there?

BITTMAN: Please, please.

NAYLOR: That`s an error to think that farmers raise corn and soybeans because it`s subsidized. There is no other crop that I could think of that I could raise to compete with corn and soybeans just because if I was to raise fruits and vegetables, I would have to have a big labor force of immigrant labor.

I couldn`t raise enough fruits and vegetables by myself, no way. And the market place, besides, is geared to getting fruits and vegetables from giant farms in California, Texas, Florida, now Mexico and China.

HAYES: So, wait. So, you`re saying that -- I want to be clear here. The reliance on monocultures and raising vast tracks of what are essentially commodities that can be sold in international commodity markets, you`re saying that is not -- that is going to happen regardless of the farm bill or not. That is not just behavior being distorted by whatever subsidies are there.

NAYLOR: Yes. You see the real sound alternative to raising corn and soybeans would be to have hay, pasture, and small grains in a crop rotation where the livestock are being raised on family farms instead of great big inhumane giant factory farms, big feedlots, now owned and controlled by the very big packing companies that are putting lousy meet and unsafe meat on the market.

HAYES: George Naylor, corn and soybean farmer from Iowa. We`re definitely going to have you back, because we`re going to follow this bill all the way through its trajectory as it heads towards a Florida vote. So, thanks so much. We`ll have you back.

NAYLOR: Oh, thank you very much.

HAYES: The one and only James Carville will be with us when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Good morning from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Here with "Food Matters" author, Mark Bittman, L. Joy Williams from the Syndicated radio show, "This Week in Blackness," Katrina Vanden Heuvel, my boss at "The Nation" magazine, and joining us at the table, we have James Carville, lead strategist for the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign, political commentator for CNN, and co-author of "It`s The Middle Class, Stupid!"

If you want to know just how bad things got this week for Mitt Romney, last night, he decided to give interviews to ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX News and NBC. The interviews came in response to a flood of new questions about Romney`s departure from Bain Capital. In previous days, we saw document after document emerged indicating that Romney remained at Bain Capital in some capacity until as late as 2002 rather than just February 1999 as he has claimed, when asked to account for the performance of Bain companies at the time.

Plus, Democrats hammered Romney all week over his failure to release more than just two years of tax returns, despite even some Republican leaders suggesting that he needs to release more, including a "Wall Street Journal" editorial page editor on this program last week, Romney last night announced he has decided that unlike previous presidential candidates of the last few decades, he will release only the two years of returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve already put out one year of tax returns. We`ll put out the next year of tax returns as soon as the accountants have that ready, and that`s what we`re going to put out. I know there will always be calls for more. People always want to get more, and, you know, we`re putting out what is required plus more that is not required. Those are the two years that people are going to have. That`s all that`s necessary for people to understand something about my finances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Mitt Romney playing defense on taxes, Bain Capital outsourcing, and his bank accounts.

"The New York Times" reported that Republicans are urging Romney to fight back and deliver a strong counterpunch that will please his supporters. The article revived an old Romney quotation, "if you`re responding, you`re losing."

While Romney plans to spend the weekend in New Hampshire with his family, President Obama is campaigning today in the battleground state of Virginia, where reportedly will continue to hammer Romney on exactly on when he left Bain Capital.

James, not at a good week for the Romney campaign.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, it wasn`t. But let me tell you something -- John McCain saw 23 years of those tax returns and it forced him to pick Sarah Palin. So, maybe we don`t want to look at his tax returns, it`s going to drive us to Sarah Palin.

HAYES: Yes, he was quoted -- he was quoted I think 2008 in the "Arizona Republic" I think said, you know, they asked for 23 years of tax returns and he said, because I`m a pack rat, I happen to have them. So, we know that they`re sitting somewhere.

Is he going to get away with this, though? That`s my big question.

CARVILLE: The other point is the single most disingenuous ad ever run in the history of presidential politics is run by Mitt Romney at the beginning of the campaign. You`ll remember this. He has (INAUDIBLE) Obama saying said, if this election is about the economy, we lose.

What he actually said in 2008 -- John McCain -- he said John McCain said if this election is about the economy, we lose. So, they just take that out. Then the Romney people bragged because it showed how tough they were that they were willing to tell a lie. And they said, we`re just willing to get away with it and there`s nothing you can do about it. That`s the truth.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THENATION.COM: You know what? I liked it. I think it was Kevin Phillips, the political strategist, who once said the Republicans go for the jugular and the Democrats go for the capillaries.

HAYES: The capillaries, right.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think we`re seeing the Democrats go for the jugular and to ferociously early define Romney.

HAYES: Speaking of the jugular, can I play this? This is definitely -- I think this counts as a jugular. This is an ad that just was released today by the Obama campaign. Check it out.

(OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

HAYES: So there`s that.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: What do you think of that? You like it?

CARVILLE: Yes, I love it. I do. The thing is finally we`re getting in early, you know, and letting, you know, setting this sort of thing. I agree.

You know, Romney`s got -- the reason this is working is by and large true, and people believe it.

HAYES: By and large is great modifier in politics.

CARVILLE: You could argue -- he was some part of Bain between `99 and 2002, all right? I`m just saying.

MARK BITTMAN, "FOOD MATTERS": Why does it matter? If I have that question, others do.

HAYES: Yes, no. It`s great question.

L. JOY WILLIAMS, "THIS WEEK IN BLACKNESS": We talked about this before. It doesn`t matter by itself that he won`t lease tax returns and things like that. It matters to us. You know, it doesn`t matter to voters.

But that combined with was he -- did he have a hand or not in Bain when they were outsourcing, it goes to his credibility on if he`s lying or if he can be trusted -- you know, all of those things.

And so, when you put that with the ad today where he`s lying to you or he`s cheating or doing something, that`s what matters to voters. Not necessarily that he won`t release a return.

HAYES: If I could be an annoying buzz kill precious liberal for a second, I`m not psyche about this sort of "American First" theme as being what to lead with.

You`re looking at me with scorn and contempt -- this is why I don`t run campaigns, but --

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You`re running for the president of the United States. That`s the difference. Let`s put the United States first. No, no, no, I don`t think it`s a good idea.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: But wait. Let me answer Mark`s question because I thing this is actually what`s bizarre about the core of this.

OK. Bain Capital runs a -- purchases a company called GST Steel. That`s in Kansas, OK?

BITTMAN: Right.

HAYES: They end up closing down that factory and shipping most of the jobs, I believe, to China around 2001, 2002. OK.

The Obama campaign releases an ad hitting Mitt Romney for that and the Romney response is I had nothing -- you can`t hit me for GST Steel because I left Bain in 1999. So then we get the disclosure forms that he signed with the SEC saying he was the sole shareholder and executive officer of Bain Capital in 2000 and 2001. These are filed with the government.

He`s now saying, well, yes, I was, but in name only.

But the whole point -- what`s bizarre to me about all of this is that they seem to be going through a lot of work and bending over backward to avoid being associated with this one instance, which is GST Steel, which was the subject of one ad, when the things that Bain was doing before 1999 are not in any ways substantially or qualitatively different.

VANDEN HEUVEL: The whole nature of Bain was about investing in companies that offshored jobs, and I think that -- let me be even more of an -- I don`t know, a gadfly.

Let`s be honest. Over the last 30, 40 years, the wages of the middle class workers in this country have stagnated. Structural reasons.

(LAUGHTER)

HAYES: I`m surprised I`m not wearing a t-shirt.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Let`s be honest -- this is a moment where we can maybe reset the priorities of the bipartisan class, political class, that has witness trade agreements, that have contributed to moving jobs offshore.

Now, private equity is the ugliest embodiment of that and Mitt Romney is the emblem of that. But let`s take this as a moment to reset the priorities of this country. Not "America first" necessarily, but let`s build a secure middle class and workers and workers` rights and living wages.

CARVILLE: No, no. It`s worse than that. Romney put Bain at issue. He said the rationale --

HAYES: The entire rationale.

CARVILLE: He couldn`t talk about being the governor of Massachusetts. He never speaks of that. That never happened. It`s like some -- OK?

HAYES: Some terrible dream.

WILLIAMS: He deleted it from his Facebook page.

CARVILLE: The reason he wants to be president is that he was this marvelous successful CEO that created these hundred thousand jobs. So people came in and said, wait a minute. You want to talk about the job use created, let`s talk about the whole picture, because Romney, although he doesn`t gamble, is the kind of guy that wants to play the slot machine but he just wants to count what he wants.

HAYES: Right.

CARVILLE: Don`t count when (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: So then he says it is unfair to question me on the very centrality of my rationale for president and then he whines about it.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Right.

CARVILLE: That`s the fact. That`s no that we picked up somebody, went up and pick some ancillary thing and found something, the girl you dated --

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