The Black Budget: Building a Trumpier America
This week, House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black (R-TN) released a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2018 and beyond, titled “Building a Better America.” Someone evidently forgot to add a few important words to that title, since the content of the budget makes clear that it is meant to read, “Building a Better America for the Wealthy and Corporations.” Just like the budget plan that President Trump released in May, Chairwoman Black’s plan is designed to lavish tax cuts upon the most fortunate while making life harder for the rest of us—especially for women and families who are already struggling the most.
The House Budget Committee approved the budget last night along party lines. Here’s a quick rundown of how the plan would harm women and their families:
- It makes devastating cuts to health coverage and access to care for millions of women. Ignoring the massive groundswell of resistance that has continued to derail efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the budget assumes enactment of the House-passed ACA repeal bill—which would leave 22 million people without health insurance; remove critical protections so that being a woman could again be treated as a pre-existing condition; and end Medicaid as we know it, including penalizing Medicaid enrollees by allowing states to impose harmful work requirements. But the Black budget doesn’t stop there: it makes even deeper cuts to Medicaid and cuts Medicare, too. Women would be especially likely to have to pay more for health care or lose coverage altogether, since they represent about two-thirds of adult Medicaid beneficiaries and a majority of Medicare beneficiaries—and many older women with Medicare need Medicaid to pay for expenses like long-term care that Medicare does not cover.
- It fast tracks major cuts to basic supports for individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet.While lacking in the detail of the Trump budget, the Black budget would undoubtedly slash programs that provide a basic standard of living to the most vulnerable among us—families who are down on their luck, children, and working people with disabilities. It specifically calls for cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), which helps ensure that people can still feed their families when they’re facing tough times; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which funds cash assistance, child care, and other work supports for children and parents with very low incomes; and the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI), which insures workers who have suffered serious and long-lasting disabilities.
While the budget does not specify all of the programs to be cut, or by how much, many others—such as Pell Grants, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—are also at risk to meet Chairwoman Black’s target of a whopping $4.4 trillion in cuts to this category of programs over the next decade. To give Congress a head start, the budget instructs House committees to come up with a total of $203 billion in program cuts (over ten years) that can be passed through a fast-track process known as “reconciliation,” which would allow the Senate to ram through some of these drastic cuts on a purely partisan basis.
- It cuts lots of other important programs, too—and prevents government agencies from doing their jobs.Over the next ten years, the Black budget would cut a massive $1.3 trillion from the part of the budget that funds programs like Head Start, child care assistance, K-12 education, affordable housing, job training, and domestic violence prevention as well as the agencies responsible for keeping our food safe and our air clean, protecting us from disease, and enforcing crucial labor standards. These proposed cuts would further undermine the security of the most vulnerable families by displacing people from their homes, slashing support for neighborhood schools, and crippling the agencies that help keep women and their families healthy, safe, and free from discrimination.
- It reinforces the Trump Administration’s hateful policies toward immigrants.Just like the Trump budget, the Black budget eviscerates funding for programs and agencies that are essential to millions in order to prioritize large, unwarranted increases in defense spending. And just like the Trump budget, the Black budget would deny the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to many immigrant families by requiring a Social Security Number (rather than an IRS-issued Individual Tax Identification Number) to claim the credit. The CTC is designed to help struggling families support their children; barring hardworking immigrants from claiming this credit with an ITIN when they pay their taxes would deny up to 4.5 million U.S. citizen children an average of $1,800 per year—assistance that can determine whether a family lives above or below the poverty line, and that has been shown to have long-lasting benefits for the children who receive it. Taking away this vital support from low-income immigrant families is hurtful and short-sighted.
- It prioritizes giant tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations. The Black budget devotes pages and pages to painting a misleading picture of the national debt as justification for its dramatic cuts to programs that serve the most vulnerable, all while paving the way for billions in tax breaks for those who are already extremely well-off. Though the budget is short on detail, it calls for changes like cutting corporate tax rates and repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax that are consistent with the House GOP’s “Better Way” tax plan released last year—a plan with a $3 trillion price tag in which an astonishing 96 percent of tax cuts would go to households with incomes above $1 million a year. And the budget again employs the reconciliation process to fast-track tax cuts, allowing their tremendous cost to be offset by a combination of the cruel program cuts described above and the baseless assertion that tax cuts will pay for themselves by growing the economy.
There is one sentence in the Black budget that does ring true for me: “Budgeting is governing.” Indeed it is – and this extraordinarily harmful budget is extraordinarily bad governing.