Spotlight Exclusives

Trump Budget Proposal Makes Deep Cuts to Safety Net

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The 2018 budget proposal issued by the Trump administration Thursday would have far-reaching consequences for low-income Americans, with proposals for deep cuts to long-standing programs aimed at providing aid and assistance for the nation’s most vulnerable.

Administration officials said the 53-page document follows through on President Trump’s campaign promises to deeply prune the Washington bureaucracy in order to tighten federal spending, free the private sector to create jobs, and turn many current national priorities back over to state governments.

“This budget represents a president who is beholden to nobody but the voters,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Thursday morning. “He is following through on his promises.”

The big winner among the president’s priorities would be the Defense Department, which would see a $54 billion increase.

Democrats on Capitol Hill sharply criticized the budget outline, as did progressive groups across Washington.

“This budget shifts the burden off the wealthy and special interests and puts it on the backs of the middle class and those trying to get there,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Twitter.

“President Trump’s proposed budget blueprint proves that you can’t steeply cut non-defense discretionary spending without doing real damage to the most vulnerable Americans,” Hunter Blair, a budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, said in a statement to Spotlight. “Years of austerity have already squeezed the non-defense, discretionary portion of the budget dry. The administration’s budget clearly demonstrates that from now on, every time we nick this portion of the budget, we’ll be hitting bone.”

The budget proposal “would do severe damage to an array of investments that help many of the very people that President Trump has said would be his priority – people who have been left behind by today’s economy or live in distressed urban or rural communities,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Bob Greenstein said in a statement.

Presidential budget submissions are wish lists that must be acted on by Congress and even some leading Republicans acknowledged that many of the president’s priorities will be rejected.

“The administration’s budget isn’t going to be the budget,” Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told The Washington Post. “We do the budget here. The administration makes recommendations, but Congress does budgets.”

Among the most striking items in the budget proposal:

  • The Community Development Block Grant program, which provides about $3 billion in housing and community development aid, would be abolished.
  • The Education Department would be cut by 13.5 percent, including deep reductions in aid to low-income students and first-generation college students.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development budget would be cut by $6 billion.
  • The Low-Income Home Energy Program, which provides about $3 billion annually to help heat homes in the winter, would be abolished.
  • The Labor Department would be cut by $2.5 billion—a 21 percent decrease that would include reductions in aid for disadvantaged youth and the abolishment of the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income job seekers aged 55 and older find work.
  • The Legal Services Corporation would be eliminated – a move the American Bar Association said it was “outraged” by, noting that LSC has offices in every congressional district and helps 1.9 million people annually who would otherwise be unable to afford civil legal assistance.
  • An analysis by The Center for American Prosperity found the cuts proposed in the budget would impact rural communities at a rate 24 percent higher than in urban areas.

Former Reagan administration official Peter Wallison, now a senior fellow and Arthur F. Burns fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that both parties can avoid the pain of discretionary spending cuts by tackling the largest driver of federal outlays: entitlements.

“The Trump budget’s severe cuts in government programs will shock many in Washington,” Wallison says. “But instead of outrage, the correct reaction should be to join a coalition for entitlement reform. For decades, as entitlements have grown, the controllable parts of the budget – the parts for which Congress actually appropriates money – have become a smaller and smaller percentage of the government’s spending.”

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