Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Who’s in Your Circle of Protection? How Rep. Paul Ryan’s Proposed Budget Impacts Hungry and Poor People

120328-isaacIn this tough fiscal and economic environment, Congress must make difficult choices. But protecting hungry and poor people shouldn’t even be a question. Unfortunately, the budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan fails to form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people, and actually dismantles protections previously in place.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the cuts are so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050. Every major bipartisan deficit-reduction group in the last two years has concluded that it will take both additional revenues and spending cuts to reduce our deficit to acceptable levels, but Ryan’s proposed budget fails to ask for an additional dime in revenues. Instead, his budget enacts trillions in additional tax cuts and fails to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction. 

Despite unprecedented levels of need, cuts in the proposed budget would have a devastating impact on programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Special Supplemental Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), poverty-focused foreign assistance, and international food aid. In fact, 62 percent of the cuts in this budget are to low-income programs.

Domestic Nutrition Assistance Programs

Increased need has led to increased demand for our nation’s nutrition programs. Nearly 49 million Americans—including more than one in five children—lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. More than 46 million Americans currently participate in SNAP; nearly half of them are children, and another 25 percent are elderly or disabled. Nearly 9 million women and young children rely on WIC for nutritious food.

Yet under this proposed budget, SNAP and WIC would see devastating cuts:

  • SNAP would be cut by $133.5 billion over 10 years and be turned into a block grant program. This would severely limit the program’s ability to respond quickly to increases in need. A cut this deep could kick 8 to 10 million people off the program.
  • WIC is funded by Congress every year. With the budget’s proposed spending caps, it would be nearly impossible to fund WIC at the level necessary to meet need.

Tax Credits for Low-Income Families

We can’t end hunger as long as people lack the financial resources they need to put food on the table. Tax credits such as the EITC and CTC boost household earnings and lift millions of people out of poverty every year.

  • The budget resolution appears to allow current EITC and CTC benefit levels to expire. This would end the additional EITC marriage penalty relief, end improved EITC benefits for families with three or more children, and prevent low-income families from counting earnings below $13,000 toward the CTC.
  • The budget calls for more than $4 trillion in savings from reducing tax expenditures. Given Congress’ reluctance to curb many of the popular big-ticket deductions and exemptions, there would be greater pressure to cut back on low-income tax credits, such as the EITC and CTC.

Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance

More than 900 million people around the world suffer from chronic hunger. Poverty-focused foreign assistance supports economic growth, protects vulnerable people, and helps curtail desperation that may lead to violence. It is an important, strategic investment that saves our country from costly interventions later on.

  • In this budget, overall funding levels for foreign assistance are cut by 10 percent in comparison to last year’s funding levels.
  • The International Affairs budget is less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, but it bears roughly 20 percent of the proposed budget’s discretionary cuts for FY13.
  • The budget calls for ending the global anti-hunger program Feed the Future. Feed the Future aims to help 18 million vulnerable women, children, and family members escape hunger and poverty and prevent the malnutrition and stunting of 7 million children. Without the continuation of this program, gains will be reversed and lives will be lost.
  • The budget calls for cutting international disaster assistance by more than 50 percent at a time when famine and natural disasters are still a reality.
  • The United States has been able to successfully leverage other donors through its bilateral investments in foreign assistance. However, this budget calls for reductions to multilateral contributions, which would jeopardize international momentum to address hunger, poverty, and global health issues.
  • The cuts put forth in this plan would jeopardize gains made against global poverty. The level of proposed cuts would endanger lives and our own national security.

International Food Aid Programs

For more than 50 years, the United States has played an important role in alleviating global malnutrition and hunger, especially during emergencies. Despite the tremendous need around the world—including the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa—the proposed budget could lead to deep cuts to international food aid programs.

  • For most schoolchildren, the one meal they get through the McGovern-Dole school feeding program is often the only meal they get all day.
  • In-school feeding and take-home rations improve school enrollment for girls. Educating girls in developing countries is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
  • Emergency international food aid is often the only line of defense between millions of people and hunger.
  • The International Affairs budget, which includes international food aid, is less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, but it bears roughly 20 percent of the proposed budget’s discretionary cuts for FY13. Cuts this deep would have devastating impacts on the roughly 46.5 million people who receive emergency international food aid.

This analysis was written by the government relations department at Bread for the World. Contact your member of Congress and ask them to oppose the proposed House budget.

Photo caption: Isaac, 3, enjoys fresh fruit. His mother, Heather, depends on the Earned Income Tax Credit to help support her family. Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.


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