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Obama's Hollow Victory

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  • An aid package to the states to prevent layoffs was funded by cutting the federal food stamp program. That's nothing to brag about.
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  • Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
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Joshua Green, The Atlantic

On Tuesday (Aug 6), President Obama signed a $26 billion bill to help state and local governments cover Medicaid payments and avoid having to lay off teachers and other public employees. In what passes for high drama in Washington, the House of Representatives was called back from its summer recess to vote on the package, and the successful outcome was hailed as a major Democratic victory. "We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe,'' Obama said. "That doesn't make sense.''

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No, it doesn't. But only by the occluded standards of contemporary Washington could this aid package be considered a victory. What began three months ago as a $50 billion emergency spending bill limped to the president's desk at half that size and was largely paid for -- "offset'' in the clinical terminology of the budget -- by cutting $12 billion from the food stamp program. In other words, a measure designed to help one group struggling in the recession came at the expense of another that is even worse off -- and growing rapidly.

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