When Republican Congressman Paul Ryan released his budget, he charged six House committees with finding $309 billion in spending cuts over ten years in order to avert $55 billion in military cuts scheduled for January 2013 under a bipartisan agreement. He wrote that these cuts would be found in “lower-priority spending.”
On Thursday, House Republicans approved the cuts along a party-line vote, revealing exactly what they consider to be “lower-priority spending.”
These cuts should be viewed in the context of sparing a defense budget that conservative columnist George Will observes is “about 43 percent of the world’s total military spending” and “more than the combined defense spending of the next 17 nations, many of which are US allies.” Even with the $55 billion in cuts that would start in January, the defense budget would still be $472 billion (not including war costs)—three times more than China spends.
But for House Republicans, their preferred alternative of cutting lower-priority spending means… a $36 billion cut in food stamps (SNAP), which largely helps the elderly, disabled people, children and the working poor. Two million people would lose their benefits entirely and 44 million would have their benefits reduced—the current average benefit is $4 per person per day. Two hundred and eighty thousand low-income children would also lose automatic access to free school breakfast and lunch. The bill also cuts the SNAP employment and training program by 72 percent, making it more difficult for jobless recipients to find work. It’s important to note that SNAP kept 5 million people from poverty in 2010 and reduced poverty rates by 8 percent in 2009.
Cuts to lower-priority spending means… denying the Child Tax Credit to 5.5 million children—that’s an average of $1,800 out of the pockets of working families earning sub-poverty wages. The Child Tax Credit lifted 1.3 million children out of poverty in 2009.
Cuts to lower-priority spending means… eliminating the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), which 11 million children rely on—including 4 million children who receive child care assistance, 1.7 million receiving protective services and 451,000 children in foster care. It also funds meals on wheels programs, services that help protect over a half-million seniors from abuse, and community-based care that allows elderly and disabled people to remain in their homes rather than be placed in expensive institutions. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, roughly 23 million people receive services funded in whole or part by the SSBG.