Today, the Republican-controlled House will begin another onslaught on programs designed to help low-income and middle class families. The GOP quite literally wants to take food from the mouths of children, cutting $47 billion — or 10 percent — from domestic programs, to pay for more defense spending. In negotiations to reach a debt ceiling compromise, Republicans have declared defense cuts “off the table,” even though Pentagon spending is notoriously bloated and Secretary of Defense Gates and other top generals have admitted spending should be curtailed:
But the GOP-dominated chamber will soon resume its budget-slashing ways as it kicks off debate Tuesday on a food and farm spending bill that cuts aid for low-income pregnant women and their children and slashes a key overseas food aid program by about one-third below this year’s funding.
At the same time, the Appropriations Committee is set to approve a $649 billion measure that slightly boosts the Pentagon’s operating budget [...]
Once money is added for programs like defense, veterans and homeland security, spending on domestic programs like food aid for the poor, education, health care and housing subsidies falls to levels where lawmakers are going to find it difficult. After a $17 billion increase for the Pentagon is factored in, domestic agencies and foreign aid programs would absorb cuts of $47 billion that would translate into cuts averaging about 10 percent.
Essential programs on the chopping block include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Commodity Supplemental Food programs, which both help low-income people get nutritional food. Hundreds of thousands of people will be cut from the programs if House Republicans get their way. WIC “provides healthy foods like milk, eggs and infant formula to about 9 million poor mothers and pregnant women and their children,” and would absorb a $868 million cut under the GOP bill, which falls $1.3 billion short of what’s needed to adequately fund the program with food prices on the rise.
The GOP measure also calls for cuts to food safety programs, a childhood obesity initiative backed by First Lady Michele Obama, and food aid for senior citizens:
The bill also cuts a program that delivers food to low-income senior citizens 23 percent below current levels. The popular Food for Peace program, which uses taxpayer dollars to buy U.S. commodities and ships them to deprived areas in Africa and elsewhere across the globe, would absorb a $457 million cut of almost one-third. The White House says that would translate into 1.1 million fewer people getting U.S. food aid.
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) spoke out against the GOP’s callousness, saying, “Tightening our belts is one thing. But people who depend on supplemental food programs, like WIC, or food stamps, or school lunches, have belts that are already cinched.”
Yesterday, the White House blasted the proposed deep cuts to food programs, saying it would leave children and mothers hungry, but stopped short of threatening a veto.