Bush budget cuts groceries for poorest seniors

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 03:31 PM

You've undoubtedly heard the White House budget refrain: "We have to tighten our belts on discretionary spending."  Or the equally high-minded: "We must eliminate or reduce programs that are ineffective or duplicative."

Well check out this example of a program deemed ineffective, all while extending those wonderful tax cuts for the benefit of everyone....in the top 10% of income, anyway.

Bush's 2007 budget proposed eliminating a program called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The Program
The White House's own web site describes the program as follows:

The program provides a monthly food package to help meet the nutritional needs of low-income women, infants, children, and elderly in selected sites in 32 States, the District of Columbia and on two Indian reservations. The State and tribal grantees operate the program directly or through local agencies.

In plain English, the program provides recipients--the vast majority elderly poor people--with a box containing 25 pounds of free groceries each month.  The groceries include such items as  peanut butter, canned fruit and vegetables, canned meals such as beef stew, bulk cheese and powdered milk.

The program supplies some 477,000 elderly people and women with children in 32 states and the District of Columbia, and was already reduced earlier this year.  The proposed 2007 budget would kill it entirely.

At a talk I attended last Sunday, May 21, Vermont congressman Bernie Sanders said that legislators are still fighting to save it.

Rationale for killing it
Why would you cut such a program, the total cost of which is a bit over $100 million, while shoveling money to the military, Iraq, and the rich just as fast as you can get those damn illegals to shovel for $3 an hour? Again, from the White House's own description:

NOT PERFORMING--Results Not Demonstrated++

++A rating of Results Not Demonstrated (RND) indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing

##The program lacks adequate performance measures and goals. Because of this, the program cannot demonstrate whether it is helping meet the nutritional needs of program participants.

##While the Department of Agriculture is taking steps to improve the nutritional content of the monthly food package for elderly participants, program oversight remains weak. Reviews of state and local programs occur too infrequently to manage the program and improve performance.

##The program duplicates other nutrition programs which operate nation-wide and serve all eligible people who apply. Most program participants are also eligible to receive Food Stamp benefits. Some participants are also eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), although they are not permitted to participate in both programs at the same time.

The BS behind the rationale
This is the Bush administration, so you know you can't take their rationale for killing the program at face value.

It lacks adequate performance measures and goals?  Come on!  The goal is to alleviate hunger among the old and the helpless.  The performance can pretty much be assumed, don't you think?  Recipients are 25 pounds of food further away from starvation.

The second complaint implies that the groceries aren't as nutritious as they could be.  What else is new?  Try increasing the funding and the program could give out better food.  And by the way, I didn't see any discussion of the "measures" by which they found the food inadequate in nutrition.

The most unconscionable is the claim that "The program duplicates other nutrition programs which operate nation-wide and serve all eligible people" such as Food Stamps and WIC.  These White House clowns really count on the public being too busy to get the facts behind the story.

I can't guarantee I've got all the facts, but try this from the Owensboro (Ky) Messenger-Inquirer, describing the Jacksons, two current recipients of the program:

...said Alex Conant of the White House Office of Management and Budget..."Food stamps and WIC provide larger, more flexible benefits than CSFP"
But Ruby and Sidney Jackson qualify for only $13 a month in food stamps, she said.

And WIC is only for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children up to 5 years old.

In Kentucky, 95 percent of the recipients of the food program are seniors.

One box of groceries a month.  Probably as an alternative to no groceries for a week or so during the month, or a diet of dry pet food.

If this doesn't boil your blood, what will?  If this doesn't tell you who George Bush and friends are, what will?  If this doesn't damn the whole damn bunch of them to moral hell, what will?

A little over $100 million.  Isn't that roughly the same amount of money that has now been documented to be lost in and/or stolen from the funds we sent to Iraq?

Enough is Enough, God Damn It.  It really is.