Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., used a conference call with reporters to warn of the widespread starvation that would be visited on food stamp and school lunch program recipients and warn that they would lose “billions of meals” under alleged cuts in the Ryan budget.
“We cannot cut our way to prosperity,” Lee said. “This is spiraling out of control. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of families.”
Lee, who chairs the Out of Poverty Caucus, held the call in coordination with representatives from the Center for American Progress and the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Policies of the Ryan budget are more dangerous for the low-income workers,” said Melissa Boteach, an expert with the Center for American Progress who spoke on the call. “It is delivering $3 trillion of cuts directed at struggling families.
“Reductions in the SNAP program, formerly known as the food-stamp program, will increase child hunger, cutting off critical nutrition.”
Boteach further alleges that the Ryan budget will take away “8.2 billion meals” from the poor if it were to become law and lead to the loss of as many as 184,000 jobs in food production in one year — numbers that could not be independently verified.
The congresswoman called food stamps an investment in the economy that she alleges delivers $1.84 for every dollar spent.
Those on the call also played the class-warfare card suggesting that the rich would benefit from the tax rate reductions being proposed under the Ryan budget while the poor starve.
Democrats played a similar card before back during the 1990s when they successfully accused Newt Gingrich and the Republicans of wanting to cut school lunches to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy .
When Red Alert Politics challenged the suggestion that the Ryan budget offers any real cuts, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, became indignant.
“We can play semantic games if you want, but the Ryan budget does not keep pace with the economy and with inflation,” Baker said. “The Ryan budget does not do that.”
The Ryan budget actually increases spending on these programs by 3 percent annually compared with 4 percent for the president’s plan, according to Ryan Ellis, tax policy director with Americans for Tax Reform.
The budget’s only substantive change is that it would make the states responsible for administering food stamps and allow them to make changes that they feel will make it more effective.
Ellis suggests that welfare reform during the 1990s proved that suggestions that changes to the system would make people starve is baseless.
“When you give it to the states, you get a lot more bang for your buck,” Ellis said. “We are spending the exact same dollar amount on welfare as we were back in 1997-1998, and the states are still able deliver same program don’t need extra money.”
Asked where the Democrats got their numbers from, Ellis charged they “made them up”.