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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding; but more importantly, I thank him for his outstanding leadership for helping us live the Bible here in the Congress. He has been a relentless, dissatisfied, persistent champion for feeding the hungry in America and throughout the world. He is the living example, personification of the Gospel of Matthew, and I appreciate the statements you made earlier about priorities and the least of our brethren.

I thank you, Mr. McGovern, for your leadership day in and day out of the task force on hunger and working with Congresswoman DeLauro, an appropriator, who shares your value on this subject. You both have been magnificent.

And I thank you as a mom, because we all have our motivation for going into politics or deciding that we're going to run for office, and my motivation can be described in three words: the children, the children, the children. As a mother of five myself and as a grandmother, I know how children thrive when they have the attention, the love, the food, and the care that they need.

It is always a wonderment to me that in this, the greatest country that ever existed in the history of the world, that one in four or one in five children goes to sleep hungry at night. So it is another wonderment to me why we should even have to have this conversation on the floor of the House as to whether we, as a nation, are prepared to feed our children.

We are all familiar with the comment, ``from the mouths of babes.'' From the mouth of babes. It's sometimes followed by ``come gems.'' In this case, ``from the mouths of babes comes food.'' Food to live, to be sustained, to be healthy, food to study and do well in school, food to have respect in their family and their friends and all the rest.

What's really interesting about it, though, for all the sentiment that is involved about feeding the children of our country, it makes economic sense to do so as well. The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, says that rate increases of SNAP benefits is one of the two best options to boost growth and jobs in a weak economy. For every $1 invested in the SNAP program, for every $1 invested in that initiative, $1.70 is injected into the economy for economic activity. This purchasing power given to families who will spend it immediately because this is a necessity, this purchasing, injects demand into the economy, creating jobs. Don't take it from me. The Congressional Budget Office says this is one of the two best ways to boost growth.

Another economic aspect of this is that, as has been said over and over again, nearly 20 million children--20 million children--are the beneficiaries of food stamps.

Why do those families need food stamps? Well, some of them are families that are making the minimum wage. In fact, if you're a family of four and you have two wage earners, Mr. Chairman, the income you make from two wage earners making the minimum wage still has you below the poverty line and eligible for food stamps. Two wage earners making the minimum wage cannot afford to put food on the table; hence, they qualify for food stamps.

These food stamps in some ways are subsidizing a too low minimum wage in our country. So, speaking of the children, the children, the children, I hope that one of the other things that we will do here is to raise minimum wage, because that is the decent thing to do.

But many of the same people who want to cut food stamps--in fact, 2 million families out of food stamps--are the same people who are opposed to increasing the minimum wage. So it's a question of fairness. It's a question of decency. It's a question of respect for all of God's children. It's also a question of doing the right thing not only for the children but for our economy--$1.70 of economic growth injected for every $1 spent on food stamps.

Now, to cut food stamps and, therefore, reduce that economic growth might be considered one of the least smart ideas that you will hear here, but there is so much competition for that designation that it just fits comfortably among initiatives to suppress the wages and to cut food stamps. It's all part of a package, and it is not a pretty sight.

That's why, Mr. McGovern, your relentless, persistent, dissatisfied advocacy is such a beautiful thing in this arena where people take very lightly cutting 2 million people off of food stamps.

I urge our colleagues to support the McGovern amendment.


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