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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Says the Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps by $40 Billion

NYT Says the Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps by $40 Billion

Tuesday, 03 December 2013 08:12

That's more than half of the money appropriated for the program. Yes, some folks will know that the $40 billion refers to a cut over 10 years. But is there some reason that the NYT can't provide such information in the article and not risk misleading a large share of its readers.

That comes to roughly 5 percent of the cost of the program. To give readers a bit more context, the NYT could have used CEPR's nifty Responsible Budget Calculator to inform readers that the cut amounts to 0.09 percent of projected federal spending over this period. In short, this cut may be a big deal to the people affected, it means little in terms of the deficit or anyone's tax bill.

The NYT is supposed to be committed to putting numbers like this in a context that makes them understandable to readers. Would anyone at the NYT really want to claim this piece expressed the proposed cuts in a way that made them understandable to most of their readers?


Comments (7)Add Comment
written by Chris Engel, December 03, 2013 7:39
Credit to Dean for being consistent. Even when NYT is exaggerating numbers that benefit progressive causes (i.e., making the SNAP cuts possibly seem larger than they are) there's a demand for accurate numbers in context.

Just need to keep reminding them of their commitment to be better about this and hope they learn. Even if their blunders sometimes favor the arguments progressives make.
written by PeonInChief, December 03, 2013 9:08
As Dean said, this is piffle to the federal budget, but the cuts are a big deal to those who are losing benefits. Losing $35 a month may not seem like much to people who aren't SNAP eligible, but it's a huge sum to people living on $800 a month, particularly when more than half of that $800 is already going for rent.
written by Last Mover, December 03, 2013 9:54

Exactly. A more accurate report of the issue would be something like:

Republicans want to cut food stamps by $40B* so subsidized takers of America won't get them, so subsidized makers of Big Ag can have the money instead, to produce more food exported to real makers in other countries who pay full price because they actually work for a living.

*Actual amounts and time periods associated with transactions don't matter as long as incentives reduce takers and increase makers.
To what purpose?
written by liberalnlovinit, December 03, 2013 3:14
If the cuts are spread out evenly over the ten year period, that averages $4BN per year. That's pocket change to the US government. To what purpose do Republicans want to save us the equivalent of the pennies that I toss in my change jar and forget about each evening? Why are they concerned about a pittance that I forget about a second after I empty my pocket?
Don't forget JP Morgan in all of this...
written by Sustainable Gains, December 03, 2013 5:06
Let's not forget that the SNAP program is operated by the TBTF banks, whose debit cards are used by the benefit recipients. How much will those banks harvest in fees? Generally something on the order of 1% of the transaction costs, right? So this proposed $40B cut would mean $400 million less revenue for them.

One might therefore expect the banks to hire lobbyists to send another few $M in campaign donations to help persuade the rambunctious Republicans to stand down. Spending a few M$ to earn 400M$ would seem to be a reasonable investment, wouldn't it?

And it works out well for the re-elected politicians too! And the poor can keep their SNAP benefits! Win-win-win!

You might think that in a great nation like ours, we could actually pay workers enough money to live on, so they wouldn't need these handouts. (I'm assuming that in a great country, the truly destitute wouldn't be at risk of having their benefits cut - I assume the cuts would fall on the marginal recipients.) However, if we stopped the handouts, then those banks would lose income, and the Republican politicians would lose campaign donations and thus job security. Can't have that, can we?
written by watermelonpunch, December 03, 2013 6:38
written by Chris Engel, December 03, 2013 8:39
Credit to Dean for being consistent. Even when NYT is exaggerating numbers that benefit progressive causes (i.e., making the SNAP cuts possibly seem larger than they are) there's a demand for accurate numbers in context.

While I too would credit Dean Baker with integrity...
I don't think this helps either side politically - but does help the side of truth at least.

I think expressing it as a 40b cut, straight up, benefits Republicans who have convinced some people to be overly worried about the government debt... and those people might wrongly think this is some way to really tighten the belt, when in fact, it's not. It's simply going to hurt poor people, and shrink demand in local economies as individuals tighten their belt to the point of making new buckle holes... while the federal government itself will not have tightened the belt so much as one notch.
written by TK421, December 03, 2013 8:00
So the Republicans want to cut food stamps by $40 over ten years, but fortunately the Democrats oppose them with a plan to cut food stamps by just $4 billion a year.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.