Spotlight Exclusives

White House Budget Calls for Deep Cuts to Anti-Poverty Programs

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

The White House released a fiscal 2019 budget plan Monday calling for $4.4 trillion in spending and more than $3 trillion in cuts, including major reductions to a number of anti-poverty programs.

The budget’s major spending hikes are targeted toward defense (a 13 percent, $686 billion increase) but also include several investments related to poverty and opportunity, including $10 billion for opioid treatment; $19 billion for a six-week paid leave benefit for new parents; and $85.5 billion for medical care for veterans.

At the same time, the budget also calls for deep cuts to several safety net programs over the next decade, including:

  • $250 billion from Medicaid
  • $554 billion from Medicare
  • $200 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • $72 billion from Social Security disability payments

The White House also recommends eliminating several programs that support low-income people, including:

  • The Economic Development Administration, which provides grants to boost local entrepreneurs;
  • Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, which provides grants for college preparation for low-income students;
  • The Corporation for National and Community Service;
  • The Legal Services Corporation;
  • The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; and
  • The Delta Regional Authority, which tries to drive economic opportunity in the eight-state Mississippi Delta region.

Leading Republicans in Congress indicated they would seek changes to President Trump’s proposal and appeared largely lukewarm to the budget plan.

“The President’s budget proposal is an important first step in the 2019 budget process – but it is just that, a first step,” said Senate Finance Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). “Congress has the constitutional power of the purse and must make the final call on federal tax and spending priorities. I appreciate the President’s effort to start the discussion for fiscal year 2019 and improve oversight of government programs. It is crucial to spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely.”

“Budgets are aspirational documents and seldom have a real impact on spending,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus. “Certainly, I applaud the president’s willingness to address our military, veterans and many suffering from the opioid abuse epidemic. I am not investing much time critiquing the budget when it has little to do with what Congress actually spends.”

Leading progressive voices, however, expressed concern that the proposed deep cuts in safety net programs could become law, or at least influence the congressional debate.

“While some media coverage has portrayed this budget as largely irrelevant, such a judgment is premature and likely mistaken,” said Center on Budget and Policy Priorities president Bob Greenstein. “The President is his party’s leader, his party controls the House and Senate, and his budget reflects his priorities and vision for the country. Congress likely won’t enact many of the budget’s specific proposals in 2018. But the budget shows what the President intends to seek if his party retains control of the House in November and picks up a seat or two in the Senate.”

Melissa Boteach, senior vice president for poverty programs at the Center for American Progress, also warned against dismissing the budget as dead on arrival.

“First, Trump’s budget pushes the mainstream debate in [a] more radical direction so that if Congressional Republicans offer ideas that are cruel, but not AS cruel, they somehow look reasonable,” Boteach said on Twitter. “Second, this is Trump’s statement of priorities. And he has a LOT of executive power, even if Congress doesn’t act.”

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