MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell took Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher to task for using the bible to justify making billions in cuts to the food stamp program, while, as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, attempting to justify the millions of dollars he receives in federal farm subsidies.
These Republicans love welfare for the wealthiest among us, but if you're a poor starving child in America, well, you'd better go find yourself a job. O'Donnell also took the members of Congress to task as a whole for refusing to do something about the massive conflicts of interest we see like this one, where they're allowed to vote on policies that are going to benefit themselves financially. He's absolutely correct that it ought to be illegal, but it's not.
Here's more on Fincher: Congressman’s Misuse Of Bible Verse Belies Bad Theology And Ideology On Food Stamps:
As the House Agriculture Committee convened earlier this week to discuss whether or not to cut as much as $4.1 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the conversation between lawmakers devolved into an exchange that was equal parts bad policy and bad theology.
As House members discussed slashing the budget for the Farm Bill, which funds SNAP, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) took issue with some Democrats who cited Jesus Christ’s call to care for “the least of these” when describing the government’s need to assist the hungry. Instead, Fincher explained his support for the proposed cuts by quoting a very different Bible verse – 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”
But while 2 Thessalonians is a convenient tool for those who want to justify ignoring the poor, Fincher’s lukewarm Biblical argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. As many religious bloggers have already pointed out, the author of 2 Thessalonians was actually referring to ancient Christians who had stopped working in anticipation of Jesus’ Second Coming. The verse is concerned with correcting a theological misunderstanding (i.e., don’t just wait around for Jesus, live an active faith), not passing judgement on the poor.
Worse still, Fincher’s use of the Bible to defend the slashing of food stamps isn’t just bad theology, it’s also bad policy.
Undergirding Fincher’s sloppy exegesis is an old conservative fiction that people who rely on food stamps are lazy parasites who mooch off the government and refuse to work. In reality, most of the country’s 47 million food stamp recipients are children or the elderly, and many are employed. A 2012 report from the USDA found that 45 percent of SNAP recipients were under 18 years of age, nearly 9 percent were age 60 or older, and more than 40 percent lived in households with earnings. [...]
Fincher’s misuse of scripture is also a slight to disabled Americans who rely on SNAP to stay afloat. Americans with disabilities, many of whom are elderly or military veterans, are burdened with any number of maladies that make full-time work difficult, if not impossible. Far from encouraging freeloading behavior, food stamps and programs like Meals on Wheels help us honor our national commitment — and, for many Americans, a religious duty — to assist our fellow citizens when they need us most. Fincher is free to draw his own conclusions about the Bible and its teachings. But using scripture to accuse millions of Americans of being lazy freeloaders is not only spiritually bankrupt, it’s also politically stupid. Read on...
The local media was letting him have it as well: Rep. Stephen Fincher under fire: 'Hypocritical with a capital 'H'':
Fincher, R-Frog Jump, has been roasted by cable news commentators and newspaper editorial writers nationwide due to his recent input into a rewrite of federal farm programs, legislation that also covers nutrition programs like food stamps for the poor. Its proper name is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
During a recent hearing of the House Agriculture Committee, Fincher invoked biblical verses to back up his belief that food stamp spending, which totals $80 billion annually, needs cutting — by at least $20 billion over the next 10 years, about a 3 percent cut.
The program serves more than 1.3 million Tennesseans.
In Crockett County, where Fincher makes his home, 3,711 individuals received food stamps in April, the latest month for which figures are available.
What aroused Fincher's critics is that he did this while government figures showed him continuing to benefit from another form of federal spending: farm subsidies.
Fincher has received $3.48 million in federal farm subsidies since 1999, according to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that annually obtains figures from the Agriculture Department. In 2012, he received $70,574.
He ranks first among current members of Congress in receipt of such money, according to the group.
Further, in its deliberations over the farm bill, the House committee — with Fincher going along — voted to make the cut in food stamps while increasing crop insurance by $9 billion over 10 years.
"It's hypocritical with a capital H," Donald Carr of the Environmental Working Group said of Fincher's positions.
The House member's office declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.
Nathan Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report said he doubted many in the heavily Republican 8th Congressional District would find Fincher guilty of hypocrisy.
"A rural farming community would be more understanding of that role (farm subsidies) in a person's life," Gonzales said.
Fincher said in 2010 that farm subsidies don't go into his pocket because he uses them to pay off agricultural loans.