Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Guest Post: Nussle, subsidies, food stamps, and insolvent government

With permission from Patriot Skull Face, a progressive Iowa blog you should be reading:

"Overall, the package of spending cuts would total $50 billion over five years and includes reductions in spending for Medicaid, the health program for the poor; student loans; and food stamps.

The biggest impact in Iowa is likely to be in the increase in the cost of student loans and the reduction in state aid for child-support enforcement.

The effect on Nussle's gubernatorial campaign is likely to be marginal, said Dennis Goldford, a political analyst at Drake University.

'What he wants to do is sell some sense of leadership and vision for Iowa. I'm not sure that this speaks to that,' Goldford said."

So what role did Nussle play in these cuts? Well, as someone who is particularly concerned about cuts to food stamps, I paid close attention. I work for a local non-profit hunger relief organization that serves 42 Iowa counties. Here's how this all went down:

In March or so, Chairman Nussle set out the various levels of cuts that each committee was going to have to make. For the committees in question, the Agriculture Committees, he set the levels to be cut at about 3 billion dollars. After that, the House and Senate Ag then looked at policy reccomendations all summer to formulate their budgets.

For example, the Farm Bureau wanted food stamps to take $2 billion in cuts. Food and nutrition advocates like myself pushed hard for no cuts, and if any cuts were to happen they shouldn't exceed the President's proposal of cutting $574 million. This cut would remove 300,000 people from food stamps across 11 states, as well at 40,000 kids from school lunch.

As for farm subsidies, Senator Grassley was the champion for cutting payments to farmers collecting making over $250,000. Seems pretty reasonable, right? These subsides go mostly to farmers in the South for sugar and cotton supports. Thanks to Senator Harkin's leadership on the Democratic side, and with support from various Republicans in the Senate, the budget called for $0 in cuts to food stamps. Because the Senate Ag chairman is Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), don't expect payment limitations happening anytime from the Senate Ag Committee. Perhaps if Grassley can get it attached to something else, there is a chance, but his attempts this year haven't worked out.

Now the House Ag, starring such Iowa members Steve King and Leonard Boswell, voted to cut above the President's reccomendation, and set the level at about $844 million. This would affect the previously mentioned 300,000 recipients as well as any immigrant that hasn't been in the U.S. seven years. This was a food stamp provision that was repealed in 2002, yet has returned thanks to anti-immigrant rhetoric from fools like Tom Tancredo and Steve King.

The House and Senate Ag committees will then have to have a conference committee to decide what cuts will be included in the final budget. There is much speculation that because the congressional Republicans and Bush are in such bad trouble, they will forgo reconcilliation and just extend last year's budget. That would be the best thing for our nation right now, unless repealing the tax cuts for the top 1% suddenly become a possibility.

SO - bottom line - Jim Nussle crafted a stupid budget a long time ago not thinking that things like food stamp, school lunch, medicaid, college loan and other cuts would hurt him. Essentially, as the hurricaine Katrina debacle has pointed out: Democrats are in favor of a large solvent government, and Republicans are for a large insolvent government. That is a debate we should be willing to have.


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