The current continuing resolution under which the federal government is operating expires on April 8, and at the moment, it seems that budget talks between House Republican leadership and Senate Democrats have broken down. Republicans want their spending bill — H.R. 1 — to “serve as a starting point for all negotiations” (even though Democrats have now upped the amount of spending cuts they’re willing to pass, alongside zero concessions from Republicans).
As we’ve noted, H.R. 1 includes debilitating cuts to programs that benefit women, children, students, and veterans. And by limiting their cuts to the non-defense discretionary portion of the budget, the GOP’s cuts disproportionately fall upon those who depend most on government programs that provide important services like education and health care.
Republicans claim the cuts are necessary to reduce the deficit, but in an interview with The Wonk Room today, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) noted that cuts to anti-poverty programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are “fiscally stupid” due to their potential for providing savings over the long-term:
On two levels [the cuts are] wrong. One is they’re wrong morally. We need to take care of women and children and WIC program is very important for childrens’ health and healthy babies and for healthy mothers. 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.
If you get a mother healthy through the period of her pregnancy she delivers a normal baby, normal birth-weight, and the child has a decent start and it’s a lot less expensive. So if you don’t care about morals and you just want to talk about money, it’s better on the money side. That’s why what they’re doing makes no sense at all.
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.” But this isn’t the only way in which Republican cuts could conceivably make the deficit worse: they’re also cutting programs like IRS tax enforcement (which lowers tax receipts) Title X family planning (which leads to higher Medicaid expenditures) and food safety regulations (which leads to more foodborne illness and higher health care costs).
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.