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August 14, 2010; Source: The Hill | We must have missed the White House memorandum that converted the Food Stamp program into a fill-the-program-gap slush fund. Last week, we noted that based on a suggestion from the White House, Congress raided the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to pay for a state aid package that would fund teachers’ salaries and postpone Medicaid cuts. Now we learn that the $8 billion child nutrition bill that is the cornerstone of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity initiative will also be paid for from Food Stamps if the legislation passes the House of Representatives.

The actual impact of the cut in Food Stamps won’t happen until 2014, a couple of election cycles (and one Presidential election cycle) away, so presumably Congressional Democrats are hoping that between now and then, they can find ways of reinstating the Food Stamp dollars. Some liberal Democrats are fed up, so to speak, with the idea of continually raiding future Food Stamp expenditures to pay for current-budget items, suggesting, as Congressmen James McGovern (D-MA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) put it, “This is one of the more egregious cases of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The First Lady and the White House have endorsed a version of the nutrition legislation that would clearly be paid for by Food Stamps, as opposed to alternative versions that would end the Food Stamp slush fund. There’s no question that obesity and malnutrition go together, with several research studies linking obesity with Food Stamp use (not that Food Stamps cause obesity, but it is difficult to afford healthier foods on a typical Food Stamp family’s budget.) The First Lady is obviously concerned about childhood obesity, but putting the Food Stamp program on a diet isn’t the answer. “Let’s Move” might be a good program, but not at the cost of cutting the Food Stamp program budget.—Rick Cohen