Another Year, Another Harmful Trump Budget Proposal
Slashes Supports for Low-Income People, Terrorizes Immigrants
Once again, the Trump Administration has resorted to the same old playbook by proposing a FY 2020 budget with dramatic cuts to key programs that matter for individuals and families with low-incomes while terrorizing children, families, and communities through increased spending on immigration enforcement, including the unnecessary and divisive border wall. The proposed attacks on health care and nutrition—besides leading to a poorer, sicker, and hungrier nation—represent an end run around the explicit and bipartisan votes of the last Congress to stabilize these programs.
It may be a new budget, but the script is the same. Trump proposes ruthless cuts in virtually every program that helps reduce poverty and supports wellbeing and economic opportunity for Americans: health coverage through Medicaid, nutrition assistance, housing assistance, and student loans. The budget doubles down on recent efforts to cut off critical health and nutrition programs for millions of people by proposing massive cuts to Medicaid and other safety net programs and pursuing structural changes—such as capping federal spending under Medicaid, allowing states to restrict eligibility, and imposing work reporting requirements that deny help to individuals who are unemployed, underemployed, or fail to keep up with paperwork across a range of programs. All of these would make it harder for low-income individuals to get the help they need to attain economic security.
The president continues to pursue these changes even though two Republican-controlled Congresses have rejected such proposals. Congress should continue to reject these proposals and push back hard on the Administration’s attempts to undermine the safety net through administrative changes. Evidence from the first state to enact a policy to add burdensome paperwork requirements to Medicaid finds thousands of poor individuals have lost coverage. Yet, the Administration is unrelenting in its proposals to restrict access to safety net programs to immigrants and non-disabled adults.
A budget is a statement of values. This budget proposal unmistakably sets the wrong priorities for our country. It doubles down on promoting poverty and injustice—taking exactly the opposite approach to the recent National Academy of Sciences report that shows how investments in nutrition assistance and safety net programs more broadly could cut child poverty in half. It misses the opportunity to invest in America’s future by bolstering programs that help today’s children, youth, and adults get a secure start in life, get an education, and move up on the job. Robust public investments in child care, postsecondary education and skills training for youth and adults, nutrition assistance, and health care coverage put low-income individuals and their families on a pathway toward economic security.
Deep Cuts to Critical Programs
The president’s budget proposal calls for billions of dollars in cuts to “non-defense discretionary” funding, which is the portion of the federal budget that funds a range of programs from education to infrastructure to environmental protection to human needs programs. Spending on these programs has already been cut by hundreds of billions of dollars in real terms since 2010, but Trump’s budget would further slash funding by 9 percent as compared to 2019. Here too, the Administration’s budget is extreme and out of sync with the bipartisan agreement made just last year to invest in important domestic priorities, including child care assistance and other critical programs for low-income children and families. Complete details on how President Trump would allocate these cuts by programs is unavailable until next week when more detailed budget documents will be released.
The cuts to mandatory programs include reductions over 10 years of $1.4 trillion to Medicaid, $220 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), $70 billion to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and $21 billion to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Child Care and Paid Leave Proposals Are Less Than Meets the Eye
Americans will not be duped by the Administration’s latest effort to claim interest in meeting the needs of working families. The Administration once again proposes the same flawed paid parental leave program it has offered in the past two budgets. While short on the details, it is clear that some of the funding for the program would come from cuts in the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, once again pitting workers against unemployed workers. By limiting the proposal to parents, it leaves out millions of people who have caregiving responsibilities or are recovering from illness themselves. The proposal would also be unlikely to benefit low-wage workers.
The budget proposes a one-time investment of only $1 billion over five years to build the supply of child care. States would be eligible to receive funding in exchange for “removing unnecessary regulations.” Research has found that standards are necessary to ensure children’s safety and are a key feature of high-quality child care. The country needs child care investments that build the supply of high-quality child care while addressing affordability, not proposals to make child care less costly through reduced regulations that could threaten children’s wellbeing. Further, one-time money does not help more children in low-income households access quality care.
More Money for Immigration Enforcement and Family Separation
Even as the Senate is set to vote to reject Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border, the president is proposing an additional $8.6 billion in funding for building a border wall. The recent partial government shutdown showed that Democrats and Republicans in Congress reject using taxpayer dollars in this way. The president’s budget request includes significant increases to expand his deportation force, including hiring additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and $2.7 billion to continue jailing immigrants—including families and children—at historic high levels. Congress should reject the president’s request to increase funding for ICE and CBP, which threatens the safety of immigrant families being terrorized in communities every day, without appropriate checks and balances.
Congress Should Reject this Proposal, Invest in Families and A Different Future
The president’s budget proposal is the first step in the federal budget process, after which the process moves to Congress. The next step for Congress should be reaching an agreement to raise overall spending levels. Without a budget deal, defense and non-defense spending will face lower spending limits and across-the-board cuts (known as sequestration) as a result of the Budget Control Act passed in 2011. Since that time, Congress has agreed to several temporary budget deals in order to mitigate harm from sequestration. In 2018, Congress completely eliminated sequestration cuts and increased spending in critical areas, including child care assistance, the opioid epidemic, funding for the upcoming decennial Census, and many other human needs programs. Without a new deal, these and other programs that support children and families in low-income household would all be at risk of severe spending cuts in 2020.
Congress should now demonstrate its commitment to critical programs that support Americans on a pathway toward economic stability. Lawmakers should reject the proposals in Trump’s budget and use their oversight authority to deter the Administration from going around Congress by pursuing damage to programs administratively.
Instead, Congress should agree to raise the discretionary spending caps to increase investments in programs that support our future: child care, workforce development, and education. Federal investments in programs that support individuals in low-income households should be the priority to reduce poverty and promote economic opportunity for all.