(Page 6 of 6)
5. Will Little Kids and Their Moms Starve?
Writing at The Daily Beast, Joel Berg blasts the "many members of Congress who label themselves as 'pro-life,' [yet who] would remove 600,000 mothers and infants from WIC." WIC is short for "Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children," which, according to the government, "serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk."
The exact provenance and reliability of Berg's 600,000 number isn't clear from his story (it appears to come from the White House), but it seems heartless indeed to screw poor moms and their kids. According to an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) list generated last year, WIC is indeed on the list of programs subject to the sequester. Out of a total of $6.6 billion in funding for the program, $543 million is on the chopping block (go to page 28 of the OMB list). Does that mean that hungry mothers and children will have food snatched from their mouths? As with so much of the sequester, that's far from clear, either in the short-run or the long-run. WIC is available to people in households who live at or below 185 percent of the official poverty line. Using 2013 numbers, that comes to a household income of up to $21,000 for one person, $29,000 for two people, $36,000 for three, and $44,000 for four people. Those are not income figures we normally associate with people living on the edge of starvation or malnutrition.
Such calculations hardly mean that life is easy for the poor - even as they suggest that many programs associated with poverty serve many folks who are not particularly poor. In a 2009 study, Douglas J. Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute and Douglas M. Call of the University of Maryland, found that in 2006, 18 percent of WIC recipients lived in households whose incomes exceeded 185 percent of the poverty line. In fact, 5 percent of recipients lived in households with incomes of 300 percent over the poverty line. Besharov and Call write that, using 2006 data, "between 74 and 81 percent of all American infants would be WIC eligible (emphasis in original).
Is it realistic to assume that four out of five kinds under the age of five live in families that need WIC? Certainly not.
And it's just as likely that even programs designed for the poor - just like White House tours and Army marching bands and federal grants to fire departments - can be trimmed without turning America into a savage nation of all against all.