House Republicans recently proposed cuts to nutrition assistance that will kick 280,000 low-income children off automatic enrollment in the Free School Lunch and Breakfast Program. Those same kids and 1.5 million other people will also lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamp benefits) that help them afford food at home.
Ten years’ worth of these nutrition cuts could be prevented for the price of one year of tax cuts on 3,340 multimillion dollar estates that House Republicans are protecting in their budget.
On April 18 the House Agriculture Committee passed a bill cutting over $33 billion from SNAPover the next decade. About one-third of these cuts ($11.5 billion) comes from putting restrictions on “categorical eligibility,” a provision that enables states to better coordinate between programs and improves access to assistance for low-income families.
By restricting this provision, the bill would kick an average of 1.8 million low-income people a year off of food aid and end automatic enrollment in free school meals for 280,000 children in struggling families.
The Republican budget sells this bill as an effort to “reduce lower‐priority spending” to avert military cuts that will otherwise take place in January 2013 due to the debt deal agreed to last summer. But when it comes to reducing the deficit, it’s clear the House would rather ask low-income kids and families struggling against hunger to foot the bill than asking multimillion-dollar estates to pay their fair share.
Case in point: As part of the 2010 tax-cut compromise, House Republicans insisted on including a tax cut on multimillion dollar estates, adding an estimated $11.5 billion to the deficit this year alone. That’s the same amount they’re now claiming is necessary to cut from low-income families through these restrictions.
By making it more difficult for low-income schoolchildren to access school breakfast and lunch, this bill will likely increase child hunger, which is associated with worse educational outcomes and higher long-term health costs. Both of these trends affect our economy and our deficitsover the long run.
We should reconsider reduced spending on “lower priority” items — a.k.a breakfast, lunch, and dinner for low-income children — and instead adopt a deficit-reduction approach that asks everyone to pay their fair share—including multimillion-dollar estates.