House Republicans recently proposed $833 million worth of cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, in next year’s budget (fiscal year 2012), which is the equivalent of kicking between 325,000 to 475,000 eligible mothers, infants, and children off of one of the nation’s most cost-effective programs. Ultimately over $650 million in cuts to the program are on the table in the bill that Congress will debate later this month, which would require between 200,000 and 350,000 women, infants, and children to lose access to this critical program.
Conservatives justified the cut on the grounds that tackling our nation’s deficits requires “shared sacrifice.” But the tax cuts they recently fought to extend will give away more money to America’s 300,000 millionaires this week than it will cost to adequately fund this critical nutrition program for all of next year. Here’s the math:
WIC provides nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women, new moms, babies, and children under 5 who have been identified as nutritionally at risk. The program saves countless dollars by reducing the instance of low-birth weight babies, improving child immunization rates, and promoting school-readiness by giving children the nutritional building blocks their brains need to develop at a critical stage. In fact, economists estimate that every $1 invested in WIC saves between $1.77 and $3.13 in health care costs just in the first 60 days after an infant’s birth. Kicking hundreds of thousands of women, infants, and children off the program is truly the embodiment of the adage, “Penny wise, pound foolish.”
Everyone agrees that we need to tackle our nation’s long-term deficits, but how we do it will define us as a nation. Polls have shown that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the American public is concerned that the GOP deficit-reduction plan will take away needed protections for the poor and the disadvantaged and will “protect the rich at the expense of everyone else.” The chart below reveals how the GOP’s WIC cuts unfortunately confirm those fears.
Melissa Boteach is the Manager for Half in Ten at American Progress.