CNN's Baldwin Hypes 'Appalling' Food Stamp Cuts

April 18th, 2012 12:51 AM

On today's 3:00 pm edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Brooke Baldwin teased her next segment:

BALDWIN: Coming up next, House Republicans they want to cut billions of dollars in food stamps. We will talk about who exactly in terms of numbers this would impact and why my next guest calls this whole suggestion appalling -- back in 60 seconds.

Baldwin interviewed Edward Cooney, executive director of the Congressional Hunger Center.  She didn't note that, despite its official-sounding name, the center is just another 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization taking money from companies such as Walmart, Kraft, and Archer Daniel Midland, as well public funding for fellowships.  Nor that Cooney had worked at the Department of Agriculture during the Clinton administration.  Nor that Cooney has made political contributions to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and ActBlue, which characterizes itself as "the online clearing house for Democratic action." 

Given that, it was to be expected that Cooney is less than sympathetic to GOP efforts to reduce the skyrocketing costs of food stamps, also referred to as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program):

COONEY: I think I should also point out though that tomorrow morning, they're going to cut an additional $33 billion that has not gotten the press this other cut has. And they indicated that there will be no harm involved. No one will be hurt because these are technical cuts. I would just like to say to you if you hear that expression from Congress, no one will be harmed, that's your first notice that you should be running for cover.

BALDWIN: Well, when you mentioned millions of people would be affected, I imagine in that millions we're talking millions of children.

And you do have, as we talk millions, record numbers of people who are in the SNAP, the food stamp program. The numbers they began spiking -- when you look back here, they spiked during the great recession. Then you look from 2007 to today, we have seen the food stamp rolls go from 27 million to 47 million.

Doubtless the recession has had a significant impact on the number of recipients.  But the Department of Agriculture  itself reported:

The historical relationship between unemployment and SNAP caseloads diverged in the middle of the decade, however. As the unemployment rate fell 1.4 percentage points between 2003 and 2007, SNAP caseloads increased 22 percent, or by 4.8 million participants.

The cost of food stamps has increased from under $18 billion in 2001 to $76 billion now.  As part of President Obama's stimulus, states received additional funding for signing up more participants.  Little wonder food-stamp expenditures have doubled in the past four years.  According to an Associated Press story on ABCNews's Web site:

Many of the immediate (GOP) cuts would return benefit levels to where they would be had Democrats not temporarily increased them in the stimulus measure.  Democrats themselves tapped the benefit increases in 2010 to pay for earlier legislation.

So the GOP's proposed reduction may not be as appalling as opponents contend.  Moreover, the Government Accountability Office states that in Fiscal Year 2011 SNAP had an improper payment rate of 3.8%, costing taxpayers an estimated $2.5 billion.  And that probably doesn't include lottery winners. 

Baldwin could have alerted viewers to her guest's background so they could take that into account while hearing his views.  But perhaps that's too much to expect from the self-styled "Most Trusted Name in News."