POLITICS

Steve King's Food Stamp Cut Sounds Insane. It's Actually Trump's Agenda.

Trump's budget would cut food stamps to pay for military spending and a border wall.

WASHINGTON ― Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) said this week he’d like to cut food stamp funding to pay for President Donald Trump’s billion-dollar border wall. 

“I’d throw another $5 billion on the pile and I would find half a billion dollars of that right out of Planned Parenthood’s budget,” the congressman said on CNN on Wednesday. “The rest of it can come out of food stamps and the entitlements that are being spread out for people that haven’t worked in three generations.”

King is just adding to his endless series of sensational and crude statements that make for great internet content ― but in this case, King’s seemingly ridiculous remark is actually a concise articulation of the Trump agenda. 

Earlier this year, the Trump administration released a budget that called for a huge increase in military spending, a wide range of cuts to social programs, and $1.6 billion to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The budget would reduce spending for the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, by $1.8 billion next year, according to an analysis posted Thursday by the Congressional Budget Office. In other words, one year of Trump’s food stamp cuts could more than pay for Trump’s wall. 

Now, the Trump budget doesn’t explicitly link cuts to any one program to increased spending on any other. And the budget’s not about to become law anytime soon. Rather, the document is a statement of Trump’s priorities for the very broad range of federal programs and initiatives. Chief among those priorities is a $50 billion boost to military spending offset by an even bigger cut in social spending. 

The Trump budget would cut food stamps by more than $100 billion over 10 years, a vastly larger sum than even Trump would likely dream of spending on concrete and rebar along the border. The food stamp cuts also come from an entirely different category of government expenditure: mandatory spending, meaning the federal government automatically foots the bill for the cost of benefits no matter how many people sign up. The wall funding comes from discretionary spending that Congress is supposed to reauthorize every year. 

So far, Republicans in Congress have been unable to agree on whether they support any food stamp cuts at all, but appropriators in the House of Representatives have been moving forward with the $1.6 billion in wall funding. King doesn’t sit on the House Budget Committee or the Appropriations Committee, which are the two panels driving the budget process at the moment. 

King seemed to say he didn’t really support a big food stamp cut, either. 

“I wouldn’t impose anything on anybody in America any more strict than what Michelle Obama did with her school lunch program,” King said, an apparent reference to Democrats using SNAP funds to help pay for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which resulted in an across-the-board 7 percent cut to monthly food stamp benefits in 2013.  

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