Bill Whitaker

One in seven Oregonians (607,000 people) currently lives in poverty. Many of our neighbors depend on assistance programs like Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps) in order to make ends meet. If congressional Republicans have their way, this situation is likely to get worse.

Congressional Republicans recently held a retreat to set their 2018 agenda. They talked about making scary changes to key programs that boost our economy and provide struggling families with vital health care and nutrition.

Right after the GOP-led Congress passed the largest tax scam in decades, benefiting billionaires and wealthy corporations over working families, Speaker Ryan laid out his plans for 2018 saying: “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit. Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

In fact, it is the Trump tax plan that will raise the deficit by a staggering $1.5 trillion, not health care and nutrition programs, which lift our economy and our families out of poverty and prevent many from falling deeper into poverty.

It turns out that this has been the GOP leadership’s plan all along — pass a massive tax cut for Wall Street and then make working families pay for it by raising their taxes and cutting the health care, nutrition and education programs their families need the most.

Investments that boost our families’ health care and nutrition mean the world to Oregonians and to Oregon’s economy. Support systems like Medicaid and SNAP keep families out of poverty, give kids a healthy start in life, help parents work and fuel our economy.

The last thing Oregon’s families and economy needs is a budget that’s balanced on the backs of struggling families or so-called “welfare reform” packages that will make struggling families and our economy worse off.

After all, 72 percent of U.S. GDP is based on consumer spending. If the majority of the people don’t have funds to spend, then our economy runs out of gas. That’s why most people support budget and tax policies that lift families.

Anti-hunger programs like SNAP are critical for Oregon’s families and economy alike. Seventy percent of SNAP participants are in families with children and more than half of those families have at least one adult in the household working. SNAP helps parents work, promotes healthy eating and responds quickly to disasters and crises like a hurricane or an economic downturn.

This critical program also lifts our economy. Because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed by families, they are spent quickly — 97 percent of benefits are redeemed by the end of the month of issuance — thereby bolstering local economies.

Children who receive SNAP do better educationally, have better health outcomes and grow up to be better workers and are better able to contribute to our economy. Further, 45 million people — including one in four children in America — use SNAP to put food on the table and make ends meet.

Medicaid (the Oregon Health Plan) is a wonder for kids and families too. Medicaid is lifting up families, empowering people to work while caring for children with disabilities or elderly parents and allowing people who were priced out of access to health care to finally get the medical treatment they need to keep them healthy and productive. It is critical for our families and critical to our economy.

Threats to Medicaid would create a crisis in our nation and particularly for families in vulnerable communities, including low-income families, people with disabilities, the elderly and those who live in rural and medically underserved communities, with a compounding impact in Black, Latino, Asian, Native American and LGBTQ+ communities.

Funding threats, structural changes and partisan fighting all risk the success and well-being of Oregon families that use important health care and nutrition programs like Medicaid and SNAP. That is why now is the time to let Congressman Greg Walden know that these programs matter to your family.