Holding Rep. Smith accountable

Rep. Adrian Smith

Nebraska Reps. Adrian Smith and Lee Terry voted to cut $40 billion from the SNAP program over the next 10 years.

Not long after Rep. Adrian Smith and 216 of his House Republican colleagues voted to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program, Smith sent out an email and posted a statement on his web site.

The $40 billion cut, he said, would affect the eligibility of not one single person now receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

That did not make sense.

How did House Republicans propose to chop food stamps for 10 straight years at a $4 billion-a-year clip and impact no one? How could Smith make that claim when forecasts estimated a loss of benefits to 4 million to 6 million people? The Congressional Budget office estimates a loss of benefits to 3.8 million people in 2014 alone.

I took my puzzlement directly to Smith. I left a message at his official House website, asking for an explanation. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I thought maybe there was something I was overlooking. Maybe $4 billion dollars worth of fraud, waste and abuse that could be trimmed away. Maybe if everyone’s benefits were cut a bit, it would add up to $4 billion.

This week I received an answer from Rep. Smith.  An answer with the same nonsensical claim:

“As you may know, the House of Representatives recent considered H.R. 3102. Included in the bill were provisions that would maintain Congress’s strong commitment to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while making commonsense reforms. In addition, the bill would ensure SNAP benefits go to those who meet existing income and asset requirements.” (Emphasis added.)

The truth is that Smith’s statement is not true. H.R. 3102 does tighten income and asset requirements and it will mean lost benefits to Nebraskans. About 180,000 Nebraskans receive food stamps — about 10 percent of the population.

While it’s rare for an officeholder to cling to positions that are blatantly false, as Smith has,  all politicians have a strong aversion to taking personal responsibility for their actions.

Who me? I’m not the one who voted for the cuts that cost your nephew his job,  slashed your grandma’s food stamp benefits, or left your cousin with a three-mile walk to work because  your city didn’t get the needed federal public transit funds.

The good news here is that there’s no way the $40 billion House Republican cut will become law. The Senate version of the Farm Bill cuts SNAP funding by only $4 billion, and the figure in the final legislation will almost certainly be in that ballpark.

The bad news is that as long as politicians get away with deceptive practices, those deceptions will continue. Here’s one that Rep. Smith only thinks he’s gotten away with.