Video: Saving WIC

Food Program Helps Families, Saves Health Care Costs Down the Road

Alex Trice and Melissa Boteach explain why it’s absurd to cut critical services such as the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program while leaving millionaire tax cuts untouched.

Conservatives in Congress are holding the economy hostage to reckless budget cuts that would take America’s economy back half a century. Their "cuts only" approach would slash basic human needs programs—including WIC, the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children—while leaving tax breaks for millionaires and oil companies off the table.

Conservatives already violated the bipartisan tradition of fully funding this effective program. Earlier this year the Republican-led House passed an agriculture funding bill for fiscal year 2012 that would cut WIC by $733 million.* If signed into law, it would effectively kick between 300,000 and 450,000 women and young children out of this critical program. Now their solution to the debt crisis is to enact dangerously deep cuts that would squeeze domestic spending, making it practically impossible and highly unlikely that we could afford to continue the necessary investments in programs such as WIC.

What’s been missing amid all the Washington talk of topline cut numbers and discretionary caps are the human consequences of slashing the safety net, which is what the conservative approach to deficit reduction would entail. This video makes the consequences of such an approach to a program such as WIC eminently clear.

(transcript, mp4, YouTube)

Kicking hundreds of thousands of women and young children off the program is truly the embodiment of the adage, “penny wise, pound foolish.” The program saves countless dollars by improving birth outcomes, 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 dollar spent on pregnant women in WIC produces $1.92 to $4.21 in Medicaid savings for newborns and their mothers.*

There’s no excuse for cutting WIC while preserving tax breaks for oil companies and special treatment for hedge fund managers. In fact, one week’s worth of tax cuts for millionaires would more than offset the GOP’s cuts to WIC.

With 44 million Americans living beneath the poverty line and one in three Americans struggling to make ends meet, reckless cuts to programs like these in the debt ceiling debate will harm millions of families, undermine our recovery, and undercut the American Dream.

We all know that we have to tackle our nation’s long-term deficits. But how we do so will define us as a nation.

* U.S. Department of Agriculture, "The savings in Medicaid Costs for Newborns and Their Mothers from prenatal participation in the WIC program" (Addendum, October 1991).

*Correction: July 29, 2011: The article originally stated the House-passed agriculture funding bill for fiscal year 2012 would cut WIC by $650 million and and effectively kick between 200,000 and 350,000 women, infants, and children out of the program if signed into law.

Alex Trice is an intern and Melissa Boteach is the Half in Ten Manager at American Progress.

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Melissa Boteach

Senior Vice President, Poverty to Prosperity Program