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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Food Stamps and the Budget-- Daily Kos

Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM PST

What's more important: Millions of hungry Americans or 0.04% of the federal budget?

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) listens to testimony during a hearing on
attribution: REUTERS
Paul Ryan's answer is clear: Let them go hungry.
As news broke of a farm bill compromise involving $8 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cuts and $23 billion in cuts overall, the New York Times mentioned that it would "reduce spending." Politico described the SNAP cuts as "savings from food stamps." The Washington Post went with "slashes about $23 billion in federal spending." Sounds big, right? 
It is and it isn't. A total of $8 billion in cuts over 10 years is huge in the lives of people who will suffer directly from the cuts. But Dean Baker points out that, framed as cuts to federal spending without broader budget context, these numbers are meaningless to readers—and a lot smaller than most people would think:
It is not hard to express these numbers in ways that would convey information to the vast majority of readers. A quick trip to CEPR's Responsible Budget Reporting Calculator would tell readers that the $23 billion cut amounts to 0.11 percent of projected federal spending while the $8 billion cut in food stamps would reduce federal spending by 0.04 percent.
In other words, the food stamp cuts are huge in terms of human misery, but tiny in terms of the federal budget—even if they didn't lead to increased costs for years to come. Yet you won't hear that from most reporters. 

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM PST.

Also republished by Hunger in America and Daily Kos.