ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK…. Senate negotiations are still ongoing, so proposals and offers are not necessarily going to end up in the final stimulus package. But Greg Sargent obtained a memo from the Senate today that details “the latest cuts being eyed by the gang of Senators being led by Dem Ben Nelson and GOPer Susan Collins.” The total for cuts in the package is between $80 billion and $100 billion.

According to the document, funding for public transit and school construction would be reduced, funding for “Defense operations and procurement, STAG Grants, Brownfields, Additional transportation funding” would be increased; and funding for these programs would be eliminated from the stimulus bill altogether*:

Head Start, Education for the Disadvantaged, School improvement, Child Nutrition, Firefighters, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Prisons, COPS Hiring, Violence Against Women, NASA, NSF, Western Area Power Administration, CDC, Food Stamps

The goal, according to Nelson, Collins, and their cohorts, is to limit the spending package to the most stimulative expenditures.

Now, there are good arguments for all of the various areas Nelson and Collins want to cut, but I’d like to single out food stamps, in part because I care about low-income families eating during a deep recession, and in part because they’re an excellent stimulus. You may have seen this chart before, but it’s worth looking at again:


Food stamps aren’t just an effective stimulus, they’re among the best when considering the proverbial bang for the buck. In fact, they’re right up there with infrastructure (Democrats wanted to add additional infrastructure spending, but Republicans blocked it) and aid to state governments (which Nelson and Collins also want to cut).

I understand the drive to trim the overall package. I think it’s misguided, but I understand it. But if you’re looking to limit spending to areas with meaningful stimulative effects, why cut food stamps?

Post Script: I’d just add, by the way, that it’s frustrating to see how arbitrary the decisions are in these negotiations. The Senate bill, before Nelson/Collins cuts, stands at $920 billion. The “centrists” want to cut $100 billion. Why? Apparently because it seems like a good number.

* edited slightly for clarity

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.