Steven Mnuchin Delighted To Learn About 'WIC' Program For Poors, Isn't That Just Marvelous

economics

The New York Times has an interesting piece about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's negotiations with congressional Republicans and Donald Trump's usual gang of idiots at the White House. Toward the end, there's this jaw dropper.

At one point during one of the negotiations, [Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin] had inquired what WIC, a nutritional program specifically for women, infants and children, was, according to a person familiar with the talks.

"On any given day, you might say, why am I even talking to these people? They don't care," Ms. Pelosi said.

Pelosi's right: How do you even with these people? Steven Mnuchin isn't just some rich twit who doesn't fully comprehend the price of bananas. Mnuchin is the head of the United States Department of the Treasury. Alexander Hamilton had this job. How does Mnuchin spent three years running the economy and not know about a federal program that feeds poor women and children?


WIC is a federal assistance program from the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue probably doesn't talk up WIC whenever he sees Mnuchin, though. He already tried to cut 700,000 people from the SNAP program (or food stamps) earlier this year.

Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey sponsored legislation in 1972 that established the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The program is funded through the food grant and the nutrition services and administration grant. Funding increasing during Barack Obama's first term but has decreased consistently since 2012. Trump's most recent budget from 2019 proposed cuts to WIC's funding by $3.5 billion over the next decade. Despite what Republicans assume about every government program that isn't the military or the police, WIC is efficient and well-run. Reducing its funding means fewer children and pregnant mothers would benefit from food supplementation (i.e. they would go hungry).

The SNAP and WIC cuts are part of the standard Republican “are there no prisons?" economic policy. However, they were rationalized somewhat by the claim that we're living in the Greatest. Economy. Ever. so deadbeats should go find a job. It's obviously not that easy. Even with low unemployment, people can still struggle to find jobs because of their skill sets, location, or disability. Also, you can have a job and still fall below the federal poverty line.

Mnuchin grossly suggested recently that the $600 per week unemployment benefit from the CARES Act had encouraged poor people to stay home in their mansions instead of work in the COVID-19 mines. What Republicans hope is that assholes who've never been on unemployment won't bother learning how it actually works, so they'll buy the garbage rhetoric.

Although Mnuchin doesn't oversee the WIC program, he was the White House liaison to Congress during negotiations over Trump's Dickensian budget, which proposed cuts to WIC's overall funding as well as drastically cutting the set-aside for breastfeeding peer counselors, who unlike Jared Kushner perform a vital service.

It was all there in the budget, but Mnuchin didn't know what WIC was. He probably didn't even care.

My first job was bagging groceries at a less-than-super market when I was in high school. My family was financially secure, so a job wasn't about survival but a first taste of freedom. This was when I learned about the WIC program firsthand. The women on the program were different ages and races. There was no “type." It still seemed far removed from my life until one of my last days of work before starting college. A high school classmate — white, a former cheerleader — showed up one day several months pregnant. When she saw me, she looked embarrassed that she was buying food with WIC checks. She shouldn't have been. There's no shame in needing help. What's shameful is remaining oblivious to the struggles of others.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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