House GOP Budget Would Cut Nutrition Assistance For Hundreds Of Thousands Of Women And Children

House Republicans have been facing a backlash after voting for a plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that would dismantle Medicare while cutting taxes for the rich. But that plan also included deep cuts in discretionary spending, the destructiveness of which is becoming more apparent as the budget process moves forward.

For instance, the Republican budget would implement a 15 percent cut in the agency tasked with policing oil markets, even with energy speculation at an all-time high. That same portion of the budget — which is being marked up by the House Appropriations agricultural subcommittee — would also cut $832 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that provides low-income women and children with food, counseling, and health care.

As the AP reported, Republicans claim that the cuts “are taken from excess dollars in those accounts, and participants won’t see a decrease in services.” However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ran the numbers and found that, with the expected increase in food prices over the coming months, hundreds of thousands of women and children would be bumped from WIC under the GOP’s plan:

House Republicans are proposing a cut in the WIC nutrition program that would force WIC to turn away 325,000 to 475,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year…Economists have varying views on the size of the likely increase in food prices over the next 18 months. If the cost of WIC foods increases by 2 percent between fiscal years 2011 and 2012 — the smallest increase likely — the proposed funding cut would force WIC to serve roughly 325,000 fewer people in 2012 than in 2011. If, as some food price experts believe likely, the price increase is 5 percent, WIC would have to be cut by roughly 475,000 people. Both of these estimates reflect the use of all contingency funds, as well as the use of carryover funds from fiscal year 2011, to close funding shortfalls.

According to the Government Accountability Office, every dollar invested in WIC “generated $2.89 in health care savings during the first year after birth and $3.50 in savings over 18 years.” As Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) said regarding an earlier attempt by Republicans to cut WIC, “On two levels [the cuts are] wrong. One is they’re wrong morally…But on a second level it’s fiscally stupid, because if you don’t feed kids, if you don’t feed mothers and get them up to speed, they deliver a low birth-weight baby that then you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars dealing with in the premie units of hospitals.”