Days after administration promised not to touch food stamps, Trump budget reportedly will cut them

Alan Pyke

Alan Pyke Deputy Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

“As far as I’m concerned we have no proposed changes” to the food stamps program, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told congressmen last Wednesday. “You don’t try to fix things that aren’t broken.”

Perdue’s comments, delivering during a Wednesday House Agriculture Committee hearing, seemed to signal that President Donald Trump would not seek to shrink America’s efforts to help low-income families feed themselves.

Yet just five days later, a leaked budget document seems to show the White House is going back on Perdue’s commitment — contemplating some combination of policy changes and outright budget cuts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and other key food supports for the poor.

The leaked spreadsheet lists proposed budget requests for thousands of different government line items, without any of the accompanying policy information that would explain the changes underlying shifts in spending. Without those details, observers can only speculate about what is driving Trump’s proposed changes to federal spending. But the document shows clear and substantial cuts from 2017 budget levels.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) would be cut by more than a billion dollars — from about $6.3 billion budgeted for the current fiscal year to just $5.2 billion for the next.

SNAP would lose some $8 billion according to the figures listed in the document, a nearly 10 percent cut to a program that’s already seen benefit amounts drop precipitously for vulnerable families thanks to Obama-era panic about deficits.

The Commodity Assistance Programs which subsidize food banks and other nutrition service charities, would also be trimmed back by $20 million, a cut of roughly 6 percent.

Perdue’s comments to the House Agriculture Committee were newsworthy because they run counter to expectations. Trump’s public commitment to seek $800 billion in combined cuts to so-called “entitlement” programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security was widely interpreted to mean that SNAP and WIC would be targeted as well.

The Agriculture Secretary’s assurances to the contrary seemed to mean good news for the 7.7 million mothers and young children who rely on WIC and the roughly 40 million Americans who use SNAP dollars to fill out their shopping budget.

But the leaked budget proposal document suggests the opposite. It is dated May 8, according to the policy organization that obtained the sheet. That means Trump’s apparent food aid cuts wishlist was put together nine days before Perdue assured the public cuts were not coming.

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Reposted from Think Progress.

Alan Pyke is the Deputy Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he was a blogger and researcher with a focus on economic policy and political advertising at Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, and PoliticalCorrection.org. He previously worked as an organizer on various political campaigns from New Hampshire to Georgia to Missouri. His writing on music and film has appeared on TinyMixTapes, IndieWire’s Press Play, and TheGrio, among other sites.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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