Twenty-five percent of persons who live in the congressional districts of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart would go hungry – at least part of the time – if they were not to receive federally subsidized food stamps. This is according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Ileana and Mario represent more than one million persons who live in those South Florida districts. Do the math and the potential for hunger in their areas could become a very large issue. And surely in Miami reside some of the wealthiest people in the country. But we also have our share of some of the poorest. So based on the U.S. census, today, if you were to take a stroll in the areas the hyphenated-twins purport to represent, and where they grovel for votes every two years in our money-matters-most elections, one out of every four persons you meet who live in their districts is having a hard time putting food on their table.
But… based on their voting record in congress, this fact seems to have been lost on Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart.
About a week ago, House Republicans pushed through a bill in congress that would cut billions of dollars from the food stamp program. Republican leaders said the measure was needed because the program had grown out of control. They also pointed to the declining jobless rate as proof that money was being wasted and things were getting better.
Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart both voted for the cut. This means that hypothetically over the next decade this program – which helps one out of every four persons in their congressional districts – will be reduced by about $40 billion. I hypothesize because the president has promised to veto such a move if it reaches his office.
The fact is, though, that the twins agree with reducing funding for programs that benefit persons in their hometowns who might go hungry.
Who then do they represent?
I really don’t know. But I can speculate based on their actions.
For example, Mario and Ileana both voted in favor of a part of the Farm Bill – where the food stamp reduction would take place – that continues to subsidize Florida sugar-cane producers Alfy and Pepe Fanjul. According to an analysis of the federal government’s General Accounting Office, the Fanjuls collect about $60 million a year in subsidies from the government for a product that all nutritionist agree is killing us, and which the U.S. government keeps its cost artificially high here at home leading to higher prices at the grocery store. (Last year the price of sugar around the world averaged 26.5 cents per pound, compared with 43.4 cents in the U.S.)
The brothers would not go hungry if their subsidy were terminated, though. They are billionaires.
And how did they make their billions?
If you really want to know, check out a 2007 documentary film titled “The Sugar Babies” that may shock you. It will lead you to wonder about the loyalty bequeathed on these two brothers by politicians – who include Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart. A subsidy for individuals who have been accused of, among many other things, slavery-like practices in their sugar plantations. Not to mention the damage they have wrought on the Florida environment because of the runoff from their sugar mills.
I dare say that if Florida ever runs out of enough fresh water for its people (and that day may be closer than we’d like to admit), the Fanjuls will be at the top of the list of perpetrators. But… we subsidize them year in and year out … and Ros Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart vote on their behalf. At times at the expense of people in their congressional districts who may go hungry.
The New York Times reports, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly four million people would be removed from the food stamp program under the House bill starting next year. The budget office said after that, about three million a year would be cut off from the program.”
Possibly the saddest part is that “critics of the measure said the cuts would fall disproportionately on children,” reported the Times. And as Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children, said, “Yes, the federal government has budget problems, but children didn’t cause them, and cutting anti-hunger investments is the wrong way to solve them.”
Based on these and so many other facts, I think it’s time voters in Districts 25 and 27 started inquiring who their member of congress really works for. Because it turns out that if you are down on your luck, don’t count on Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart helping you.
(Photo from Bread for the World website)