US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Mark Bittman takes a page from the prophets on food stamps

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

I've come to rely on Mark Bittman's commentary to direct me through the arcana of food policy, the farm bill, and the agricultural industrial complex. What I don't usually look for in his writing is pungent critiques of the misuse of scripture. Mighty Mark, however, does just that in a blog post last week, in which he lays into Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who dared to quote 2 Thessalonians 3:10--"Anyone unwilling to work should not eat"--to justify cutting $20 billion from the food stamp budget in the current version of the Farm Bill. As Bittman rightly points out, "whoever wrote 2 Thessalonians was chastising not the poor but those who’d stopped working in anticipation of the second coming."  Bittman not surprisingly suggests that Congress shouldn't be basing public policy decisions on the Bible--though he could find plenty to support his condemnation of the rank injustice of cutting food assistance to the poor in the Hebrew prophets.

As for Fincher, his appalling use of scripture is only the tip of the iceberg: As Bittman notes, the congressman has received almost $3.5 million in direct farm subsidies since 1999--yet another example of politicians who enrich themselves from the public purse, part of the ongoing wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the rich that is built into our system of taxation and subsidy.

The truth is, there are plenty of poor who work but can't eat--because their wages are too meager to supply their basic needs. That's the injustice the government should be taking aim at--but I doubt Fincher or similar congressional cronies have any interest in that.