Deficit Reduction or Class Warfare?

Obama's speech in the Rose Garden on Monday outlined his proposal to control deficit spending, which features the “Buffet Rule” to ensure that households earning over $1 million do not pay a lower tax rate than middle-class Americans. Critics of Obama's plan called this class warfare.

But in today's flagging economy, if “class warfare” describes an assault on the highest earners, it may also be an apt description for what's happening to more vulnerable Americans. Census data released last week revealed that more than 40 percent of households headed by women were impoverished in 2010. For some context, the poverty line for a 3-person family is $17,568. More than one in five children in this country live in poverty, the Census data showed.

Meanwhile, in June a bill passed the House that would cut funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC. Lawmakers have yet to decide what the actual funding level will be for the coming year (See an overview of the annual federal budgeting process here). Because WIC isn’t an “entitlement” program, some women who qualify for it could be denied food assistance if funds run out.

The National Priorities Project's new Federal Priorities Database maps federal expenditures on a host of different programs, including WIC. The database shows that average monthly benefits for WIC enrollees range from around $30 in Utah and Texas up to about $50 in New York and Mississippi. See the data for your state here.