This is not a reset: Trump’s speech continues the assault on vulnerable communities
March 01, 2017
Despite the lofty rhetoric in Tuesday’s speech to Congress, President Trump continues to divide the country, particularly by portraying immigrants, communities of color, and poor and low-income people as burdens on society. His words simply do not match his actions. Here are but a few examples of what he said in the speech and the threats posed thus far by his policies and pronouncements:
Threats to Communities
Trump said that breaking the cycle of poverty requires us to break the cycle of violence. Yet his counterproductive “law and order” approach to policing would disproportionately target low-income communities, immigrants, and communities of color. For instance, he and Attorney General Sessions have been championing a discredited approach to criminal justice policy— a “law and order” framing that targets people of color, basically discarding recent progress in reforming systemic racism in the justice system and reversing mass incarceration. Low-income communities need support and smart investments to get and stay on a path to economic security.
Throughout President Trump’s speech, he also intentionally framed immigrants as threats to the safety of U.S. citizens and a strain on public resources. The facts about immigrants simply do not align with the president’s hateful talk. Indeed, immigrants and their families—of all financial means—contribute significantly to our economy. Immigrants are also less likely to engage in criminal activity or use means-tested public benefits. In addition, his massive deportation efforts—already in full swing—are creating chaos by undermining community safety and threatening the well-being of millions of families, particularly by terrorizing U.S. citizen children who are now facing separation from a parent.
By criminalizing and otherizing immigrants and Muslims, along with dismissing the contributions of low-skilled immigrant workers and low-income neighborhoods, Trump is continuing to foster hateful rhetoric and division, not pivoting or being presidential.
Threats to the Safety Net
Health care coverage is key to everybody’s success. Yet, if the president is serious about ensuring access to affordable health care, he and Congressional leaders are simply wrong to insist on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which would jeopardize the coverage of everyone on the marketplace, in employer-sponsored coverage, and on Medicaid. In addition, when he mentioned giving governors the “flexibility they need with Medicaid” he was alluding to efforts long pursued by Republicans to restructure Medicaid’s financing structure using per capita caps and/or block grants. Either approach would slash funding and shift costs to states, leading to cuts in coverage for low-income people and disproportionately affecting communities of color—effectively ending the Medicaid program as we know it. Because Medicaid has been proven to be a critical support for both finding and maintaining employment, pulling the rug out from under hard-working Americans through damaging changes to Medicaid would endanger the economic security of families, along with our overall economy.
The president also spoke of child care affordability and paid family leave. However, his campaign promises and proposals so far do little to advance public policy on either of these issues. In fact, his proposals are counterproductive to supporting those hard-working people who most need help as they strive for economic security. For CLASP’s commentary on his plan for child care and paid family leave, click here.
Simply put, President Trump’s speech merely dressed up the same assault he’s been making on vulnerable communities for many years.
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The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions that work for low-income people. With nearly 50 years of trusted expertise, a deeply knowledgeable staff, and a commitment to practical yet visionary approaches to opportunity for all, CLASP lifts up the voices of poor and low-income children, families, and individuals, equips advocates with strategies that work, and helps public officials put good ideas into practice. The organization’s solutions directly address the barriers that individuals and families face because of race, ethnicity, and immigration status, in addition to low income. For more information, visit www.clasp.org and follow @CLASP_DC.