When Is a Funding Cut Not Really a Funding Cut?


Early attempts to move the state-budget bailout bill that passed in the House this afternoon failed to win enough votes because they were funded using "emergency" deficit spending. The bill that passed today finally picked up enough votes when Democrats grudgingly found a way to offset the cost. The trick, as Katherine Mangu-Ward just noted, was to take money originally intended to be used for food stamps.

That hasn't played too well with folks who want to have it all: The New York Times editorial board, for example, argued that although the bill pays for programs that are "badly needed," the use of food stamps to offset the cost of those programs "is a cowardly blight on Congress." What kind of heartless, out-of-touch elites would cut food stamps?

Answer: the kind who already gave the program a giant funding boost, and are merely paring back after finding out that the extra money they put toward the program would go further than originally expected.

When the stimulus passed, it included a big hike in funding for the food stamp program. But the extra funding was calculated based on a projected inflation rate for food prices that turned out to be far too high, meaning the extra funding would extend until 2018 or 2019. The offsets in the new bill trim those added benefits back so that they'll only last until 2015, which is still two years longer than originally anticipated. So the food stamp cuts aren't exactly cuts; instead, Congress is scaling back temporary bonus funding that turned out to have had more money set aside than was actually necessary to achieve its intended goals.