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The U.S. Congress sees nothing wrong in this picture.
On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a Farm Bill that cuts food and nutrition programs by $4.1 billion over the next decade, $400 million annually. That's bad, and unnecessary, particularly in light of the CBO's new report of shrinking deficits. But the Senate cuts are peanuts compared to what the House is prepared to do: $2.5 billion in cuts annually for the next decade, for a total of $21 billion.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities gives context for those cuts:
The proposed legislation would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) by almost $21 billion over the next decade, eliminating food assistance to nearly 2 million low-income people, mostly working families with children and senior citizens. The proposal reduces total farm bill spending by an estimated $39.7 billion over ten years, so more than half of its cuts come from SNAP. The SNAP cuts are more than $4 billion larger than those included in last year’s House Agriculture Committee bill (H.R. 6083).
The bill’s SNAP cuts would come on top of an across-the-board reduction in benefits that every SNAP recipient will experience starting November 1, 2013. On that date, the increase in SNAP benefits established by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) will end, resulting in a loss of approximately $25 in monthly SNAP benefits for a family of four. Placing the SNAP cuts in this farm bill on top of the benefit cuts that will take effect in November is likely to put substantial numbers of poor families at risk of food insecurity.
Families of four will see a reduction of $25 a month in SNAP benefits starting in November because of the expiring stimulus bump. That's a big chunk out of a working family's food budget. But with the cuts that the House is proposing, millions of them could be cut off completely. According to CBPP, those the House bill would cut off are: almost 2 million people in state option program that allows states to provide the benefit to people who are slightly over the income eligibility cut off, but with below-poverty income; several hundred thousand children who will lose free school meals, and 210,000 children who's families will lose SNAP benefits; working-poor families who own a car.
Got that? You have a low-wage job and you have to have a car to get to your job, and if the House has their way, you'll have to choose between giving up the car, and probably your job, or making sure you can put food on the table, a really tangible concern since your kids don't get free lunch at school anymore. All because the Very Serious People have bought into a bankrupt and debunked theory of austerity.
With the Senate proposing cuts of $4.1 billion, and the House $21 billion, you can expect the cuts to end up being in the double digits of billions range. Because we all have to have skin in the misguided austerity game, don't you know.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed May 15, 2013 at 10:14 AM PDT.