Arthur Delaney fires some shots:
In order to help pay for a series of high-priority spending bills in 2010, congressional Democrats raided future funding for food stamps, promising to put the money back before any cuts took effect.
Now that the cuts are around the corner, Democrats aren’t talking about replacing the money. Instead, they’re talking about more cuts. The big farm bill that passed the Senate on Thursday will reduce the deficit by $23.6 billion. Part of the savings comes from cutting an additional $4.5 billion from food stamps.
This is absolutely correct. The food stamp cuts came in two bills in 2010. One was in the state fiscal aid bill, which cut SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funding by $11.7 billion. Then there was the child nutrition bill, and another $2.2 billion in cuts. So that literally expanded the school lunch program by paying for it with a low-income family’s dinner. The theory behind the reductions was that food prices did not rise as anticipated when an increase in the program was put in place through the Recovery Act, and this reduction simply allowed the expanded benefits to run out on time, in 2014. That’s actually questionable, considering a return to the baseline would represent a cut in real terms, if you account for inflation.
But like Arthur, I remember the conference call with stakeholders where they promised to restore the food stamp cuts.
I asked (AFSCME’s) Chuck Lovelace if his union had any hesitancy to endorse a bill that did this much damage to the food stamp program. “We do have concerns,” he said. But he advised that the cuts, because of how they are structured, would not go into effect until 2015. “We intend to go back and work to restore that benefit at the appropriate time… From my union’s perspective, we will go back and get that back.” Everyone else on the call agreed.
It wasn’t just stakeholders. Here’s Rep. John Garamendi in August 2010: “Food assistance works for working families, making sure that children, young mothers, and our most vulnerable workers will never go to bed hungry… The cut to food aid doesn’t take place until 2014, and by then, I hope this Congress can have a more reasonable conversation on the wisdom of exposing millions of Americans to hunger.” Jim McGovern said, “The way you are going to pay for a child nutrition bill is by dipping into people’s food stamps? Give me a break.” But lo and behold, that’s what happened. Arthur has examples as well:
When they grabbed the money in 2010, several Democrats, including Sens. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said they’d try to find a way to prevent the cuts from taking effect. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told the Columbus Dispatch Reid would find a solution and that “we need to talk to the White House on how to deal with this.”
It turns out that the cuts created a real cut in benefits in 2013, by about $16 a month starting in November. That’s less than predicted at the time because of slower price inflation on food. But that will only increase as inflation increases.
And now, in the name of “anti-fraud prevention,” we’re seeing another round of cuts, to over 500,000 families. But let’s keep the context: Democrats promised to restore previous cuts when they made them in 2010. Here’s what I said about that at the time:
As for the claim that we’ll fix it later, and we should pass the child-nutrition bill now: whether or not the House or Senate ends up changing parties at the midterm elections, we are going to have a more-conservative House and Senate. And it is also clear that the deficit is going to be bigger next year than it is this year. So people really expect that even though Congress can’t find the money now, they’re going to find it down the road — with a less-progressive Congress and a wider deficit? They’re magically going to be able to come up with funds for this later? They won’t.
Indeed. And this has a cumulative effect on what is now the largest safety net program in the country.