In yesterday's editorial on proposed cuts in food spending, the wrong home state was given for Sen. Mark Andrews. He is from North Dakota.
What can you say about a plan to take food away from poor kids? Sen. Mark Andrews (R-S.D.) offered an apt response in commenting on the administration's proposals for further cuts in food programs. "Of all the dumb ways of saving money, not feeding kids is the dumbest."
That's a sentiment that should be widely shared as Congress begins to consider the administration's 1984 budget plan. The plan calls for another $1 billion cut in the food stamp program--already one of the largest losers in the domestic budget--which includes among its many poor clients millions of needy families with children.
Another $300 million would be cut from school lunch, breakfast and other nutrition programs for children. The WIC program, which provides high- nutrition food supplements to pregnant women and infants, would be frozen at current levels--over the next five years it would lose $800 million in purchasing power. Add to these cuts the several hundred million more to be taken from welfare aid to families, and you have a massive assault on the most basic kinds of help for needy children.
Budget director David Stockman defended the proposals before the Senate Appropriations Committee by observing that the government will still be spending billions on food programs. But Sen. Andrews, a conservative on budget issues, noted that he had seen poor people in this city searching for discarded food in dumpsters. To argue that there is no need is, he remarked, "a bunch of garbage."
Mr. Stockman also argued that some child nutrition programs would only be frozen at current levels and that others, notably the summer feeding program, have been "rocked by scandal." But a cut is a cut whether it is voted outright or caused indirectly by rising food prices. And while we doubt the summer feeding scandal ranks up there with Teapot Dome, we would remind Mr. Stockman that this administration has been in charge of running government programs for some time. If abuse exists in an otherwise worthy program, the administration should find ways to control it.
The best thing that can be said for these proposals is that Congress is not likely to pass them. The administration recommended most of these ideas last year, and they were rejected. The function they serve is to allow the president to reaffirm his commitment to cutting social spending without having to come up with realistic ways to do it. That's not much help to Congress, which must shortly provide a sensible plan to control the ballooning federal deficit over the next few years.