Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
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Budget Cuts: Who Loses?

Less funding for low-income babies

June 2011

President Obama signed a federal spending plan for fiscal year (FY) 2011 into law on April 15, 2011, following protracted negotiations that preoccupied Congress for several months. Because FY2011 ends September 30, 2011, Congress has begun work on the FY2012 budget.

Final FY2011 appropriations significantly cut programs for hungry and poor people, both in the United States and abroad.

In the next couple of months, Congress will make far-reaching budget and spending decisions. The most immediate of these concerns how Congress will raise the nation's debt ceiling, which must be done by August 2 according to the U.S. Treasury's latest calculations.

Raising the ceiling simply allows the government to pay its existing obligations. Not raising the ceiling in time would force the United States to default on its financial obligations. The consequences would be both unprecedented and a severe shock to global markets.

For this reason, there is no real doubt that Congress will raise the debt ceiling. But Bread and other advocates are concerned that provisions harmful to low-income people may be attached to the legislation in order to win enough votes for passage. Many members of Congress have said they will not vote to raise the ceiling unless it is accompanied by significant spending cuts or controls.

Our concern is based on congressional support for recent budget proposals that target low-income people in this country and abroad. In addition to the FY2011 cuts, the House passed Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) FY2012 budget resolution on April 15. It calls for $4.3 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, roughly two-thirds of which would be to low-income programs. The resolution is not binding but guides the House Appropriations Committee, which will now determine funding levels for specific programs.

Cuts in the Ryan budget resolution include $127 billion over 10 years from SNAP (formerly food stamps). Nearly all SNAP benefits go to families living below the poverty level. In addition, SNAP would become a block grant, meaning that there would be a fixed amount of money for the program. This would prevent the program from serving additional eligible people during economic downturns.

Despite claims to the contrary, the Ryan bill does little to reduce the budget deficit because it nearly balances the $4.3 trillion in spending cuts with $4.2 trillion in tax cuts (both over 10 years). The Ryan plan would make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent and reduce top corporate and individual tax rates. Perhaps ultimately most worrisome of all, Ryan's plan would cap federal spending at levels far below what will be needed to meet the government's future obligations.

Bread for the World urges members of Congress to form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people in all upcoming budget decisions, especially the current negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. These programs did not cause the budget deficit, and cutting them cannot fix it.

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