Economy/Economic Policy

Cash-Hungry States Could Eat Up Food Stamps

Friday, April 29, 2011

The GOP budget proposal for 2012 moves the federal food stamp program to state control. That recklessly puts 44 million Americans and a disproportionate number of women at risk. It's wrong and costly to boot.

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Inventing 50 New Wheels

Today, state programs follow rules and procedures established at the federal level. Changing over to block grants will require inventing 50 new wheels as once national programs devolve to the states.

Attacks on federal programs often invoke excess bureaucracy and red tape as a rationale for cutting. In this case, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.

Proposed reductions in spending aimed specifically at nutrition assistance are part of social conservatives' overall push to shrink government or "starve the beast." But this plan actually starves real people and pushes the country backward, to a base and brutal have-and-have-not scenario.

There are other ways to cap spending.

The United States could double spending on nutrition assistance, enrolling twice as many people in SNAP programs, if we cut the 2011 military budget for Afghanistan just in half.

Look at this another way: 50 percent of the war dollars spent in Afghanistan would help feed an additional 90 million people (or 40 million more households) and would still leave $57 billion for arms.

A holistic look at the true cost of war is even more revealing.

In 2007, Global Insight, a leading economic modeling firm, assessed the impact of Iraq war spending on America.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research then adjusted Global Insights' results forward two years and found that military spending stripped roughly $250 billion out of the 2009 economy. In other words, had we not been waging war in Iraq, our national economic output in 2009 would have been $250 billion larger.

That's almost seven times the $38 billion in cuts Congress approved on April 14.

There is so much bloat in the military budget, and so much need at home.

The House Republicans really are born again…in the spirit of Marie Antoinette.

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Susan F. Feiner is a professor of economics and professor of women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

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