GOP Unveils Plan to Gut Food Stamp Program

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan. House Republicans have started rolling out their austerity plan including massive cuts to the food stamp program. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/File)

GOP Unveils Plan to Gut Food Stamp Program

House Republicans have passed their budget that includes slashing food stamps in an effort to save billions in cuts to the Pentagon.

Politico reports that the changes mean "an average family of four would face an 11 percent cut in monthly benefits after Sept. 1 and, even more important, tighter enforcement of rules would require that households exhaust most of their liquid assets before qualifying for help." The Associated Press adds that elegibility changes would knock 3 million people off the program completely.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops slammed the plan in a letter to the House Agriculture Committee saying lawmakers should "protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people over subsidies that assist large and relatively well-off agricultural enterprises."

The House passed the budget by a "deeming resolution" saying it was necessary due to Senate failure to pass a budget. In a statement on Monday House Republicans stated: "When the Senate refuses to act, the House must take steps to ensure that it can responsibly proceed with the appropriations and budget process," the statement said. "This is accomplished through the use of budget enforcement language in a rule, commonly called a 'deemer' because it 'deems' the House budget levels in place until there's a joint agreement between the House and Senate."

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Politico: Republicans to slash food stamps

From food stamps to child tax credits and Social Service block grants, House Republicans began rolling out a new wave of domestic budget cuts Monday but less for debt reduction -- and more to sustain future Pentagon spending without relying on new taxes. [...]

At one level, the pro-Pentagon, anti-tax stance fits traditional Republican doctrine. And the whole goal is to come up with enough savings to forestall automatic spending cuts that will fall most heavily on the Defense Department in January.

But what's also driving the latest cuts is a newer narrative, voiced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), that the social safety net is at risk of becoming a "hammock." And even as the unemployment rate has begun to fall, conservatives are alarmed that the level of income-related government benefits continues to rise. [...]

An average family of four would face an 11 percent cut in monthly benefits after Sept. 1 and, even more important, tighter enforcement of rules would require that households exhaust most of their liquid assets before qualifying for help. This hits hardest among the long-term unemployed, who would be forced off the rolls until they have spent down their savings to less than $2,000 in many cases.

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Ezra Klein: Wonkbook: The House GOP's tax day lesson

House Republicans think the Pentagon is in trouble. Under current law -- which includes the "sequester" that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in the debt-ceiling deal -- it's scheduled to take more than $500 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. Republicans are desperately trying to find alternative savings. And, on Monday, they named one of them: Cuts to food stamps. [...]

Republicans argue that the food stamp program has been expanded in recent years, and they're just cutting President Obama's hammock back down to a safety net. Democrats reply that the food stamp program has been expanded because the economy crashed, and, by the way, the Pentagon's budget has grown by far more than the food stamp program in recent decades.

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David Dayen: Firedoglake: House Looks to Cut Food Stamps to Offset Defense Trigger

Food stamps have risen mainly because it has taken the place of traditional welfare, which after the reforms of 1996 has proven ineffective in recessions. The food stamp program helped keep millions out of poverty during the recession, and the rolls have increased out of need, not out of government generosity.

In fact, while food stamp benefits did expand as part of the stimulus package, they were cut back twice in the last Democratic Congress, once to pay for a state fiscal aid bill and a second time to pay for the child nutrition bill, which quite literally provided children lunch and paid for it by taking away their dinner. The bump from the stimulus will end completely by November 2013. Republicans would roll it back a year early, ending it September 1 of this year, for a savings of $5.9 billion. Other onerous eligibility requirements would save $20 billion more, and like most eligibility rules the purpose is to make it harder for people with legitimate needs to access food stamp benefits, reducing the cost to the government.

Even with the GOP's eligibility rules, the savings are a pittance of what's needed to offset the defense trigger, and it would have to be combined with a host of other cuts. But in a real sense it gives away the game. Programs for the poor are seen by this incarnation of the right as targets. So-called "welfare reform" shot welfare full of holes and now they're going after food stamps and Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit. They will not stop until those alien "others" lose all their benefits, which can then flow more easily to the rich, corporations and defense contractors.

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