Food-Stamp Pillaging: More From Josh Green


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I recently took note of the theft funding of the new Medicaid and pay-for-teachers bill that the president signed this week—a perfectly worthy bill and a very bad way of funding it. Food stamp money should not be cut back—it should only be expanded, so that the one in eight Americans now relying on it can continue to, and so that programs like Wholesome Wave's, headed by Michel Nischan and helped by Gus Schumacher, can extend their benefits to buy double their face value when used for fresh produce (other states, including my home state of Massachusetts, are working on similar programs). And people can use them creatively, as the fired Tacoma restaurant critic Ed Murrieta wrote about, rivetingly, a few months ago.

In his latest weekly column for the Boston Globe, Josh Green takes up the subject and exposes it for the badly thought-out gambit it is:

"We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe,'' Obama said. "That doesn't make sense.''

No, it doesn't. But only by the occluded standards of contemporary Washington could this aid package be considered a victory. What began three months ago as a $50 billion emergency spending bill limped to the president's desk at half that size and was largely paid for -- "offset'' in the clinical terminology of the budget -- by cutting $12 billion from the food stamp program. In other words, a measure designed to help one group struggling in the recession came at the expense of another that is even worse off -- and growing rapidly.

And he fingers who's responsible:

So why cut food stamps as the recovery is suddenly faltering? The short answer is, because Republicans insisted on it. Not food stamps specifically -- that idea came from the White House, although no Republican objected. But Republicans compelled the cuts by insisting that any new spending measures, even on something as seemingly unobjectionable as saving teachers' jobs, be "offset'' in the budget. A grim necessity, they claimed, to prevent the deficit from killing the recovery. But that's a political argument, not an economic one.

"It was a lousy offset,'' said Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Worcester, the co-chairman of the House Hunger Caucus. "We're robbing Peter to pay Paul.''

I hope Congress finds a way in the next big bill to slip money back in for people who need to eat—and need to eat exactly the fresh food that Michele Obama is telling them to.