New Battles Over the Budget

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April 18, 2012

Despite the fact that automatic cuts to the federal budget still are set to begin in January, House members continue to propose alternative plans.  The most recent proposal comes from the Republicans: a call for $34 billion in cuts to the food stamp program over the next decade, reports Brian Faler in Businessweek.

This proposal comes as part of a larger plan to make $261 billion in spending cuts proposed last month by House Republicans.  This proposal came with an order to a number of congressional committees to come up with spending cuts recommendations by April 27.  This food-stamp cut is on proposal coming from that request.

According to Faler, the food-stamp program will cost about $80 billion this year.  House Agriculture Committee Charman Frank Lucas is quoted as saying that this plan will make the food-stamp program more efficient: “It’s basically closing loopholes; it’s tightening things up; it’s reflecting the budgetary times we’re in.”

In response to this proposal, Democrats expressed outrage, Faler reports.  Representative Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, explained: “We’re literally going to take it out of the mouths of babes.”

Representative Sander Levin, another Democrat, similarly scolded the Republicans for such a plan: “In their zeal to cut taxes for the very wealthy, House Republicans continue to put the burden on the backs of children, the elderly and the disabled.”

Retirement benefits also are a target for cuts in this Republican proposal, reports Faler, though he speculated that food stamp cuts would be “among the most contentious proposals.”

Bringing the Article into the Classroom

After reading this article in class, a few general questions to ask students are: does this article seem to present a bias?  Is there a difference between biased reporting and reporting that focuses on a single group’s opinion?

More specifically, this article lends itself to a discussion on the different ways the government may or may not operate during an election year.  In the article, Frank Lucas is quoted as saying that: “Everything that happens in an even-number year is always an election issue.”  What do students make of this quote?  Do they agree or disagree with him, and why?  You may even give students an opportunity to speculate what the discussions surrounding the budget would be if it were not an election year.  Another point of consideration is: is it possible to avoid turning every issue into an “election issue” in an even-number year?

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