By Teresa Welsh |
The House should reject the farm bill, which asks low and middle-income Americans to foot the bill for deficit reduction while asking nothing of the wealthiest Americans.
The bill slams families struggling to put food on the table by cutting $16 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps). These cuts would kick more than 2 million vulnerable people off of nutrition assistance, and cut 280,000 low-income schoolchildren from automatic enrollment in free school lunch. The bill axes $90 per month in food aid from 500,000 households by eliminating a provision that helps households with high utility bills avoid impossible choices between putting food on the table or paying their heating or cooling bills. With 84 percent of all supplemental nutrition assistance going to a household with a child, senior, or person with a disability, these cuts would cause real hardship to many vulnerable populations close to the edge.
House Republicans claim they want to end "dependency," but their bill also cuts off pathways to the middle class. Under the House farm bill, if a poor family on food stamps tried to save money for car repairs so they could get to work or to pay for tuition to train for a better job, they would lose their food aid. This is because the bill would eliminate a provision that enables states to waive stringent asset-limits that penalize families for saving money to pull themselves up.
But the poor aren't the only ones hurt by the House farm bill. Middle class families would also feel the pain. The House's nutrition cuts would cost our economy 19,000 jobs in 2014 as demand for food declined, hitting small businesses and grocers. It would also undermine long-term economic growth by increasing hunger, which costs our economy $167.5 billion a year in lost worker productivity, lower educational outcomes, and higher long-term health costs.
We don't need to cut nutrition assistance to cut the deficit. In fact poverty reduction and deficit reduction have traditionally gone hand-in-hand. The American people agree: 75 percent reject cuts to food assistance, which will increase hunger, cost us jobs, and hurt our long-term economic competitiveness. Congress should instead pass a farm bill that helps farmers while protecting nutrition assistance and strengthening the middle-class.
About Melissa Boteach Director of the Poverty and Prosperity Program for Center for American Progress
Jim Weill President of the Food Research and Action Center
Roger Johnson President of the National Farmers Union
Leonard Boswell Democratic U.S. Representative from Iowa
Nan Swift Federal Government Affairs Manager at the National Taxpayers Union