The on-again, off-again countdown to closing the federal government’s doors is on again. The latest deadline for passing a budget to fund the current fiscal is this Friday, April 6. There were reports late last week that a deal to cut a total of $33 billion—short of the House’s proposed $61 billion in cuts—had been struck. But Speaker John Boehner has been cagey about admitting as much, and Republicans plan to unveil their proposed cuts for next year on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, noted foodie and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman spent last week fasting to bring attention to one of the most striking disconnects between people and policy: food aid for the poor. Here’s how Bittman described the House Republicans’ budget:
The budget proposes cuts in the WIC program (which supports women, infants and children), in international food and health aid (18 million people would be immediately cut off from a much-needed food stream, and 4 million would lose access to malaria medicine) and in programs that aid farmers in underdeveloped countries. Food stamps are also being attacked, in the twisted “Welfare Reform 2011” bill.
As many have explained, these politically symbolic cuts will make little difference in the deficit. As players on both sides of the aisle acknowledge, any real deficit reduction will come from either raising taxes or cutting military spending and the cost of large programs like Medicare. But the GOP’s cuts would make a world of difference to the record numbers of people who were living in poverty and hunger in 2009. The Center on Budget Policy Priorities found that social safety net programs like WIC and food stamps kept 15 million Americans out of poverty in 2005, and “reduced the depth of poverty” for nearly 30 million others. “Such programs likely kept even more Americans out of poverty since the recession began,” adds the center.
As the Times reports, “A single worker with two young children needs an annual income of $57,756, or just over $27 an hour, to attain economic stability,” which is far above the $7.25 an hour that minimum wage workers earn. This means that many people who are working will still need access to WIC and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.