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House Proposes Cuts in Food Stamps, Environmental Protection &Sustainable Agriculture, with Massive Tax Credits for the Wealthy

From: www.commondreams.org
Press Release
NOVEMBER 18, 2005
CONTACT: Bread for the World
John Brennan, 202-464-8106, jbrennan@bread.org

Jennifer Stapleton, 202-464-8123, jstapleton@bread.org

House Cuts Food Stamps for More than 220,000 Vulnerable People While Poised
to Cut Taxes for Wealthy

WASHINGTON - November 18 - The House of Representatives passed a budget bill
yesterday that changes eligibility requirements for the Food Stamp Program,
cutting benefits for approximately 220,000 to 250,000 vulnerable people. The
budget reconciliation bill aims to cut the Food Stamp Program by $675
million.

"We are disappointed that the House made cuts to the Food Stamp Program and
are poised to cut taxes for the wealthy. Their choice takes food from
families struggling to make ends meet and puts more money in the pockets of
those who need it the least," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread
for the World. "This is morally wrong and will make Thanksgiving bleaker for
hundreds of thousands of hard-working families."

Leaders made minor changes before the budget vote to minimally curb the
effect of the food stamp cuts to win wider support for the bill. However,
the final version still cuts more than 220,000 from the program. The
majority of these cuts will affect welfare-to-work families who receive
non-cash Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits and legal
immigrants who have been in this country for more than five years.

"With hunger on the rise and the forces of nature exposing poverty anew,
plans to cut this vital, proven program make no sense. House leaders should
be ashamed of trying to preserve tax cuts for our nation's wealthiest people
at the expense of basic assistance for working families struggling to put
food on the table," Rev. Beckmann said.

Last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the statistics on
hunger and food insecurity for 2004. The number of people living in food
insecure households has risen by nearly 2 million people (from 36.3 million
individuals in 2003 to 38.2 million in 2004). More than 13 million children
live in food insecure households. The number of people who live in
households that suffer from outright hunger rose from 9.6 million to 10.6
million. These increases in hunger and food insecurity are sharper than in
previous years.

The Senate passed a budget bill that contained no cuts to the Food Stamp
Program. Consequently, the conference between the House and the Senate will
decide the impact of the budget on the more than 220,000 vulnerable people
who are at risk of losing their food stamps.

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___________________________________________________________________________
PRESS RELEASE
NOVEMBER 18, 2005
CONTACT: Earthjustice
Marty Hayden or Sarah Wilhoite, 202-667-4500

House Narrowly Passes Nightmare Budget; Unacceptable Threats to the
Environment Remain

WASHINGTON - November 18 - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly
passed its budget reconciliation bill by a vote of 217 to 215. Fourteen
Republicans joined all voting Democrats and one Independent in opposing the
bill. According to Earthjustice, this industry giveaway contains numerous
attacks on the environment, particularly on our most special public lands.
"This budget is a loss for the American people," said Marty Hayden,
legislative director for Earthjustice. "While the House version does not
include threats to drill for oil along our coasts and in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge as earlier versions did, this budget would still cause
serious harm to our public lands."

The House passed budget includes language seeking to:

-- Sell off millions of acres of public lands currently protected by the
federal government at bargain-basement prices -- solely for the private gain
of private corporations -- in one of the largest land giveaways in our
nation's history. Companies would be able to buy public lands containing
valuable minerals for a tiny fraction of their market value, without paying
any royalties or additional fees. Areas in or near national parks, including
Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon, could all be at risk.

-- Deem as "adequate" an as-yet-unwritten environmental impact statement for
oil shale development. State and local governments, Indian tribes, and
citizens across the nation would be deprived of the opportunity to voice
their concerns about oil shale exploitation, and its impacts on clean air,
safe drinking water, and vulnerable ecosystems.

-- Split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, isolating California and Hawaii
from Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
Anti-environmental interests want to "judge-shop" in a new federal circuit
court, where they hope judges would look the other way when environmental
laws are violated. Former Governor and Senator Pete Wilson, a California
Republican, has opposed such a split, calling it "environmental
gerrymandering." The vast majority of Ninth Circuit judges, including all
Bush appointees, oppose splitting the circuit.

-- Cut important Farm Bill programs that help farmers and ranchers protect
and enhance natural resources on their land. The Conservation Security
Program, which rewards good conservation stewardship, would be cut by $504
million over five years. The Watershed Rehabilitation Program would be
eliminated, meaning a loss of $225 million that local governments use to
rehabilitate aging dams and other flood control projects. The bill also
eliminates the budget for popular and effective federal programs that
support farm-related energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Leadership was unable to muster enough votes for the flawed bill one week
ago, despite stripping language that would have authorized oil drilling in
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off America's coasts.

"Since only minor changes have been made to the budget proposal, it is
obvious that a lot of arm twisting must have occurred since then," said
Sarah Wilhoite, legislative associate for Earthjustice. "Congress recognized
that special places like the Arctic Refuge need protection. However, it is
unfortunate they did not apply that standard of protection to our other
sensitive public lands."

###

PRESS RELEASE
NOVEMBER 18, 2005
CONTACT: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
202-408-1080

House Budget Bill, with Almost All of it's Low-Income Cuts Intact, Moves on
to Conference with Very Different Senate Bill

WASHINGTON - November 18 - On November 17, House leaders made several
changes to the House budget reconciliation bill, some of them designed to
garner the support of Members who were concerned that low-income families
would bear a large share of the bill¹s cuts. CBO analyses show, however,
that these changes reduce the total level of cuts that most directly affect
low-income Americans by only about two percent. The other 98 percent of the
low-income cuts remain. The bill passed by the House would impose
significant cuts in:

* Food stamps: more than 220,000 people would be cut off the program.
This includes at least 150,000 people, most of them in working families with
children who have substantial work and housing expenses that drop their net
incomes below the poverty line. In addition, 70,000 legal immigrants who
have been in the United States between five and seven years, primarily
working-poor parents and poor elderly individuals, would be cut off food
stamps by 2008. The food stamp cuts would total $700 million over five
years, according to CBO.

* Medicaid: low-income beneficiaries would have to pay more for
health care and would receive reduced services; many would end up doing
without needed care. A last-minute change by the House reduced the
co-payments that the poorest Medicaid beneficiaries must pay. But the House
left unchanged the two most serious most serious problems in this part of
the bill - the very high co-payments and premiums that beneficiaries just
above the poverty line could be charged, and the health care services that
states would be allowed to eliminate, including comprehensive preventive
care and treatment for near-poor children.

These changes would reduce Medicaid by nearly $30 billion over ten years,
according to CBO. These savings partly reflect the fact that because of the
increases in co-payments and premiums, many low-income people either would
not receive health care services or would not obtain Medicaid coverage at
all, CBO notes. This, in turn, would result in more emergency room visits
and higher emergency care costs, according to CBO, as people¹s health
worsens due to lack of timely care.

* Child support: $24 billion in child support payments would go
uncollected over the next ten years because of deep cuts in child support
enforcement efforts. By sharply weakening funding for child support
enforcement, the bill would undercut one of the government¹s principal tools
for enforcing personal responsibility on those who father a child. Child
support payments would drop sharply - according to CBO, $24 billion that
would be collected under current law would go uncollected under the House
bill - and as a result, many children would likely be pushed deeper into
poverty.

* Child care: 330,000 children in low-income working families would
lose child care assistance by 2010. The bill requires states to place many
more parents receiving TANF cash assistance into work programs. States will
have to provide child care for these parents. Yet the House bill fails to
provide enough child care money even to maintain the current number of
subsidized child care slots for low-income families.

As a result, states would have to shift child care slots from low-income
working families that are not on TANF cash assistance to families that
receive cash aid and are participating in work programs. By 2010, some
330,000 children in low-income working families would lose their child care
subsidies. (This figure is a CBPP estimate; no CBO estimate is available.)
Budget Cuts Will Be Used to Finance Tax Cuts, Not Deficit Reduction or
Hurricane Relief

Despite claims by supporters of the House bill, these cuts would not reduce
the deficit or help offset the costs of hurricane relief. This is because
the House is planning to consider a tax-cut reconciliation bill that would
reduce revenues by $60 billion over five years, more than offsetting the
total savings in the budget-cut bill.

Moreover, while the House budget cuts would heavily affect low-income
families, the centerpiece of the House¹s forthcoming tax-cut bill < an
extension of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts < would overwhelmingly
benefit upper-income households. Fifty-three percent of the benefits of
extending those two tax cuts would go to the 0.2 percent of households that
make more than $1 million a year, according to the Urban Institute-Brookings
Institution Tax Policy Center.

Unlike House, Senate Achieved Savings Without Sharp Low-Income Cuts
The House¹s approach to reconciliation budget cuts contrasts sharply with
that of the Senate, which did not include any cuts to food stamps, child
support enforcement, SSI, or foster care.

The Senate bill did include Medicaid reductions, but unlike the House, the
Senate avoided changes that harm low-income beneficiaries. Instead, the
Senate took on powerful lobbying interests such as managed care providers
and pharmaceutical companies: the Senate bill reduced overpayments to
Medicare managed care plans (as recommended by the non-partisan Medicare
Payment Advisory Commission) and reduced the prices Medicaid pays
pharmaceutical companies for prescription drugs. The House, in contrast,
shielded managed care providers and pharmaceutical companies.

The House could have achieved the $50 billion in savings in its final bill
while protecting low-income families by:

* reducing overpayments to Medicare managed care plans;

* lowering Medicaid prescription drug prices (by addressing the high
charges imposed by pharmaceutical companies, as the Senate did); and

* canceling two tax cuts exclusively for high-income people that are
scheduled to start taking effect on January 1. The savings just from
canceling these two new tax cuts would be more than enough to replace all of
the House¹s low-income cuts.

It remains to be seen whether the House¹s approach of imposing large cuts on
low-income Americans or the Senate¹s approach of protecting these people
from the most severe cuts will prevail in conference negotiations.

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