Statement on President Trump’s Budget Proposal
With its familiar refrain of slashing trillions of dollars from human service programs over the next 10 years, political observers have already declared that President Trump’s budget proposal is “dead on arrival” in Congress and doesn’t present a serious threat to Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.
Still, there is serious cause for concern since the proposal yet again flags the administration’s intentions to dismantle key supports for seniors, low-income families and students. Though most components of the budget proposal won’t likely be enacted, they too often advance the toxic narrative that recipients of these programs are unworthy freeloaders collectively digging the country deeper in debt. Over time, this harmful narrative diminishes support for human service programs like SNAP, while stigmatizing people who use them.
The budget proposes cuts over a 10-year period in Medicaid ($1.4 trillion), Medicare (amounting to $845 billion), SNAP ($220 billion), federal student loan programs ($207 billion), Supplemental Security Income (SSI — $70 billion) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF — $21 billion).
Reductions in Medicaid funding will purportedly come from increasing work requirements for recipients and transitioning the program into “block grants” for states while terminating expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As CCLP’s Allison Neswood pointed out in a 2016 blog, block granting Medicaid would put states in the untenable position of either redirecting state funds from other vital needs to replace the reductions in federal funding, or reducing access to care. Furthermore, block grants don’t allow the federal Medicaid budget to expand when downturns in the economy or natural disasters create a surge in the number of people who are eligible for the program.
Among other proposals in the budget, the administration would like to siphon $2 billion of reserves from the Pell Grant program – the primary source of federal grant aid for millions of students whose families typically earn less than $60,000 a year – potentially putting the future of the program in jeopardy. It also proposes $8.6 billion in cuts for Housing and Urban Development and increases ill-founded “work requirements” for families receiving federal housing assistance.
The administration proposes once again to eliminate the Legal Services Corp., which provides access to civil justice for Americans who otherwise could not afford legal representation. The budget also reintroduces the concept of a “food box” in lieu of cash assistance for SNAP recipients. Along with demeaning SNAP recipients by restricting their ability to buy healthy food that is consistent with their needs, this concept undermines the efficiency of SNAP in putting food on the table and supporting local economies.
Like previous budget proposals, this year’s model either overlooked or ignored the fact that most able-bodied Americans who receive government assistance already work – often more than one job. Rather than supporting programs that get Americans on a better career path, this budget proposes drastic cuts to programs and services that equip people to better participate in the job market.
This budget is a missed opportunity for the country. We are saddened that rather than proposing a fresh vision for America, this administration insists on replaying themes from the past two years that in many instances weren’t even embraced by members of the president’s own political party.
As Congress weighs the president’s budget proposal, we at CCLP believe that the way forward begins with policies that invest in people. In 2017, our four-part series A Better Budget outlined how policymakers can strengthen the nation’s safety net while building an inclusive, fair and just economy that reflects our nation’s ideals and puts more Americans on a path toward self-sufficiency. We presented ways to revive education and training, rebuild affordable housing, stop hunger and preserve funding civil legal aid.
In the months to come, we urge you to keep watch on Congress and be ready to call or write your elected officials when they are considering fiscal policies that would leave millions of Americans worse off than they are now. The Coalition on Human Needs regularly updates its Budget and Appropriations resource page with analyses of the budget from expert organizations, including resources on health, nutrition, housing, fair revenues and more.
We at CCLP will continue to monitor and provide updates on what is almost certain to be another divisive budget process. In the meantime, we lament this most recent effort to undo human services that help hard-working Americans.
Join us in urging Congress to reject this budget and increase investments in health care, workforce development and other priorities that reduce poverty and promote the health and well-being of all Americans.