The Trump Budget: This Is Not What Greatness Looks Like
With all of the foolishness coming from this administration on a daily (heck, even hourly) basis, it is hard to keep up. And when it comes to rather dense and dry things like budget numbers—well, you’d be forgiven for thinking that can’t be as bad as trying to take away health insurance from millions and ending Medicaid as we know it, or ripping apart immigrant families, or basically anything that has to do with Russia?
Unfortunately, friends, it’s extremely bad. If the budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2018 that Trump released today goes into effect, millions of women, men, and families will suffer in very real ways. Women and children will lose health care coverage, families will lose the help they need to put food on the table, and workers with disabilities will be left to fend for themselves. The Trump Administration proposes dramatic cuts to basic assistance for families—to the tune of $1.7 billion—all while handing billions of dollars in tax cuts to the very richest Americans and corporations. Donald Trump’s friends in the top one percent are the only ones who come out winners in his economic plan.
As for the rest of us, I’m afraid the president’s budget has us marked as losers. Here are just a few of the ways in which the Trump budget makes clear that any promises he made to look out for struggling Americans and ordinary working folks were nothing but empty rhetoric to win a campaign.
- It compounds congressional attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with devastating cuts to health coverage and access to care for millions of women. Among its many harmful proposals, the Trump budget would throw individuals off of health care and leave them without critical protections, which means being a woman could once again be treated as a pre-existing condition. It would devastate the Medicaid program, which would particularly harm the 17 million low-income women ages 18-64 who rely on Medicaid for health coverage. It targets Planned Parenthood, potentially leaving millions of individuals nationwide without access to a trusted provider of reproductive and preventive care. And it prioritizes religious exemption laws that allow health care providers to refuse to treat a woman seeking an abortion, even though recent NWLC polling showed that U.S. voters oppose these laws.
- It guts basic supports for our most vulnerable families, children, and workers with disabilities. The Trump budget cruelly slashes programs that provide a basic standard of living to the most vulnerable among us—families who are down on their luck, children, and disabled workers. Among its many, many program cuts, the Trump budget takes steps to dismantle the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Social Security Disability Insurance program. The Trump proposal’s dramatic changes to these programs that provide basic supports to everyday Americans would hurt millions:
- SNAP helps ensure that people can still feed their families when they’re facing tough times, like losing a job or getting their hours cut at work. About 44 million people use SNAP benefits each month—and women make up the majority of adults who use the program. Trump’s proposal would slash funding for SNAP by $193 billion over ten years, reduce eligibility for the program, and enable states to reduce benefits, among other changes. This means that families who may need help putting food on the table during rough patches could find themselves unable to access SNAP at all or would receive a lower amount of benefits—even though benefits amount to an already low average of $1.40 per person per meal.
- CHIP covers millions of children in low-income working families nationwide, and it is especially important to children of color. The Trump budget would cut eligibility for CHIP and shift costs to the states by ending the ACA’s increased federal contribution—leaving states to pay more for the program and excluding many families who rely on it.
- The Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) is a critical part of Social Security and insures workers who have suffered serious and long-lasting disabilities. As women’s labor force participation has increased, so has their use of the SSDI benefits, and women now make up nearly half of all SSDI beneficiaries. As of 2015, more than 4.3 million women received DI benefits as disabled workers. The Trump budget’s proposal to cut SSDI breaks his promise to protect Social Security—maybe Trump doesn’t know the actual name of the program?—and would be devastating to women.
- It cuts lots of other important programs, too—and prevents government agencies from doing their jobs. As promised in the “skinny budget” released in March, Trump’s full budget includes massive cuts (i.e., $54 billion) to 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 families 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 undermines workplace protections for women. Trump’s budget proposes eliminating the Department of Labor office responsible for ensuring that federal contractors—which employ about a quarter of the nation’s workforce—meet the high standards for ensuring equal employment opportunity that come with the privilege of receiving taxpayer money. The elimination of a major civil rights enforcement entity would jeopardize this important work and sharply weaken the federal government’s ability to enforce equal pay laws and ensure fair treatment of working people. It also proposes slashing funding for the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau by about 75 percent; the Women’s Bureau is the only federal office solely dedicated to advancing the interests of women in the workplace, through research, public education, policy development, and advocacy. By targeting civil rights enforcement and the Women’s Bureau, the Labor Department budget threatens real harm to women. Moreover, the Labor Department’s overall budget would be cut by more than 20 percent, eviscerating a host of other protections and programs that working women and men rely on.
- It takes aim at the most vulnerable students. Students across the country are ill-served by Trump’s budget proposal. For example, the proposal would cut $1.7 million for staffing at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights just as the Office is experiencing an increase in discrimination complaints. The proposal would also zero out funds that help schools pay for anti-bullying initiatives, mental health services, after-school programs, AP, and STEM programs. All of these cuts and more would be made in order to finance dramatic increases in the amount of public money directed to privately-run schools, despite evidence that voucher programs may actually lower student achievement.
- It reinforces the Trump Administration’s hateful policies toward immigrants. In addition to eviscerating funding for the programs and agencies that are essential to millions in order to prioritize unwarranted increases in defense spending and a pointless wall along our southern border, the budget would deny the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) to some hardworking immigrant families by requiring a Social Security Number (rather than an IRS-issued Individual Tax Identification Number) to claim them. These tax credits are incredibly valuable to the families who claim them every year; in 2015, the EITC and CTC together lifted 9.8 million people out of poverty, including 5.1 million children. And research shows that children who grow up in families that receive these credits do better in school, are more likely to attend college, and earn more as adults. Denying this vital support to low-income immigrant families is hurtful and short-sighted.
- It gives giant tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations. While the Trump Administration claims that we need to dramatically slash health care for low-income families and children, disability insurance for vulnerable workers, and food stamps in order to balance the budget in 10 years, it is somehow okay to give billions in tax breaks to those who need it the least. Trump has outlined tax principles that give billions in tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations, but because he claims that these tax breaks to the rich grow the economy, the budget doesn’t account for the massive cost of the tax cuts. In so doing, Trump is using a classic Republican refrain has been widely discredited and he is showing the American people exactly where his priorities lie—among his rich buddies on Mar-a-Lago and not with the rest of us.
Some might point to the budget’s parental leave plan as evidence that Trump is not ignoring the needs of working families—but this piece of the budget is just smoke and mirrors. The proposal to require states to provide some wage replacement for six weeks to new parents is woefully inadequate. It falls far short of the 12 weeks of leave that is widely recognized as a minimum standard and doesn’t provide any paid leave at all to many people who need paid family and medical leave the most—including people battling cancer and other critical health conditions, those caring for their seriously ill family members, or even new mothers who need extra time to recover from c-sections or other complicated births. If this was all Ivanka’s idea, then it’s just another way she’s proving to be seriously out of touch with most working women (and men).
The Trump Administration’s promises to prioritize child care and early education ring hollow, too: the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start would be funded at FY 2016 levels, without the increases for these programs contained in the final funding measure for FY 2017. The budget also eliminates the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program, which helps parents in postsecondary education, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school program. And the budget’s major cut in funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) would have a significant impact on early care and education, since nearly one-quarter of TANF funding is used by states for child care assistance, Head Start, and prekindergarten.
Women do not lead single-issue lives. The Trump Administration does not get credit for offering half measures like a small parental leave benefit—or for not cutting child care assistance as much as it cuts everything else—while it proposes devastating cuts that affect virtually every aspect of women’s lives. This budget would hurt the most vulnerable among us while giving massive tax breaks to the most fortunate. These backward priorities are not a foundation for greatness, success, or whatever noun Trump may have recently discovered. It is nothing short of a recipe for disaster for American families. Congress must reject the budget outright.