CNN's Gupta Prescribes Democratic Talking Point

April 26th, 2007 1:57 PM

Update below: Related posts.

On CNN's "American Morning" today, senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta warned of proposed cuts to a Federal program. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is under assault by - you guessed it - George W. Bush.

According to Dr. Gupta:

Since WIC was founded over 30 years ago, thoughts on nutrition have changed. See, the problem then was malnutrition, not obesity. So most WIC vouchers are for cereal, breads, crackers, milk products. Checks for force (sic) fresh fruits and vegetables don't exist.

So last August the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to add produce to the voucher system, to give clients a more balanced diet. They're expected to be available next year. But some say that might not happen, because WIC is on the chopping block, slated for a $145 million cut in President Bush's 2008 budget.

It would have been helpful, and some may think even required by journalistic standards, to put that proposed spending reduction into perspective. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the actual amount spent on WIC in 2006 was $5.056 billion. OMB's estimates for 2007 WIC spending is $5.172 billion and for 2008 $5.32 billion. So, contrary to what's suggested by the good doctor, we're not looking at a massive cut with wide-ranging impact.

Dr. Gupta's figure of $145 million is included in a release issued months ago by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). But even there, Rep. Obey offers a compliment of sorts:

The Administration does well to request $5.4 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), an increase of $182 million. BUT, the budget would pass on $145 million in administrative costs to states, a proposal the Congress routinely rejects.

OK, so even if the Administration's recommendation is implemented, we're looking at a cut in administrative costs, not in direct benefits to the program's clients. Moreover, that $145 million represents less than three percent of total spending on WIC. Additionally, if there's a direct connection between the introduction of produce vouchers for WIC and a small proposed reduction in administrative costs, as he intimates, the doctor doesn't show it.

We can only hope that Dr. Gupta's medical advice is better than his unsubstantiated alarmist warnings.

UPDATE (Ken Shepherd | 17:40 EDT):

Related items:

GMA Salutes ‘Bold’ Health Care Plan from Democratic ‘War Horses’ (NewsBusters)

CNN Doc: We Need More Handouts for the Obese (BMI)

Another related item:

CNN: Bush 'Cuts' Threaten Effort to Fight Obesity in Poor (NB, April 29, 2007)