Mothers across the United States are tremendously familiar with the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food program. Many children are under its protective umbrella and millions of women opt-in every year. But it has taken a political beating since the 2010 elections due to the conservative resurgence and the electoral victors' stated quest of cutting as much spending as possible.
Some on the national stage have proposed simply slashing the federal budget for the WIC program in a time of hypocritical "fiscal responsibility" and pushing off the job of working around those cuts to the state level.
Congress voted in November to lower funding by over $100 million for 2012, and this was after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives demanded harsh cuts of over $700 million, which, arguably, would have put the entire program in jeopardy. Unfortunately, WIC, unlike programs labeled as "entitlements," is also not exempt from required sequestration cuts.
I understand that costs must be brought down and fraud and waste must be tackled. However, broad, indiscriminate, brutal cuts are not the answer.
Instead, we must start with small measures like requiring that sufficient identification be required at all times of purchasing and having the Department of Agriculture hire a team of independent experts to take a second-look at the nutritional requirements and see if they are due for reevaluation. From such an investigation, the maximum age for children under WIC could possibly be lowered and we might also feel inclined to supply mothers and caregivers with different options in their shopping as opposed to mandating things like that they must purchase a perhaps unnecessarily high milk allowance per child every month.
We must also instruct stores to not allow returns of products bought with WIC for store credit and we must allow for the de-complication of reporting abuse. In addition, drug testing could serve as a useful instrument to weed out undesirables.
With proper moves, both hawks and those in favor of a strong government can both get what they want. Metaphorically speaking, we really can have our cake and eat it, too.