Viewpoint: Even if ‘dead on arrival’ Trump’s proposed $2 trillion in cuts to social safety net could become policy

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Karen Rubin, Columnist

It doesn’t matter the 2021 budget proposed by Trump and his administration, with $2 trillion in cuts to the social safety net is considered “dead on arrival.” Because as we have already seen, Trump doesn’t actually care about Article I that gives Congress the “power of the purse” to determine what gets funded and what does not. Nor does he abide by the oath to “faithfully execute” the laws of the land as he sabotages the Affordable Care Act and Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

Trump has already shown he will simply declare a “national emergency” or claim “national security” interests shut down the government and divert money allocated, say for the military to build a border wall so shaky it falls down in a stiff wind when Congress expressly said “no.”

A proposed budget is a statement of the values and priorities that an administration holds. Trump’s proposed budget, which like the current one would run record deficits of $1 trillion, proposes to pay for those deficits on the backs of the most vulnerable and powerless, by literally diverting billions from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. It continues to hollow away funding for environmental protection, public health, and diplomacy. Foreign aid cut 21 percent. Non-defense spending is cut five percent – $2 trillion over 10 years.

What increases? Defense. Indeed, between funding for Trump’s new toy, the Space Force, and new nuclear weapons – also increased 20 percent – he is triggering a new arms race that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.

So the first thing is that Congress should do is reduce funding for Defense (proposed to increase $3 billion to $741 billion) by the $8 billion Trump has commandeered for his wall – it shows that defense didn’t need the money anyway.

“President Trump calls his proposal, ‘A Budget for America’s Future.’ But the future he envisions is bleak indeed,” writes Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “He proposes less health care, less food for Americans in need, large cuts to Social Security disability benefits, and other harmful cuts, ranging from affordable housing to heating and cooling assistance to student loans and so much more. This is the Trump choice: make the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent, and take away medical care, housing, job training, and food from millions of Americans.”

“Although Congress in recent years has rejected the President’s most harmful proposed cuts to human needs programs, danger remains,” Weinstein stresses. “Why? Because the Trump Administration has aggressively sought to carry out its proposed cuts through administrative rule-making and moving or refusing to spend money despite Congressional intent.

“A perfect example of this is Trump’s approach to Medicaid and SNAP. The Trump Budget proposes massive and mean-spirited changes to these programs. Millions would lose assistance if Congress went along. Congress has rejected such cuts in the past, so the Trump administration presses on with executive actions contrary to Congressional intent and often contrary to law. The Administration would deny SNAP to low-income workers and their children and to very poor individuals unable to keep a steady job. Similarly, if the Administration succeeds in its efforts to cut and cap Medicaid, millions more would lose health care coverage, even after we learned last fall that between 2017 and 2018, an additional 1.9 million Americans found themselves without access to health care – the first time this happened since enactment of the Affordable Care Act,” Weinstein states.

Trump’s budget cuts $181 billion from SNAP food stamps – considered one of the most effective anti-poverty programs – slashes Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by $200 billion, cuts education funding by 8 percent, including cutting student loans by $170 billion, cutting work-study programs and eliminating funding for after-school programs, cuts Health and Human Services by 9 percent, eliminates Community Services and Social Services block grants, cuts Housing and Urban Development by 15.2 percent, including eliminating Community Development Block Grants and the HOME program and defunding the National Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing, and cuts Environmental Protection Agency funding by 26.5 percent.

Trump also would put obstacles in front of the disabled by requiring much more frequent reporting and paperwork in order to receive benefits.

But, “by the administration’s own projections, these changes will save $2.6 billion in benefit payments over the next decade. The changes will lead to 2.6 million additional reviews over this period, costing the government $1.8 billion,” writes Dean Baker on Truthout.org. The net savings then amount to $80 million a year, or less than 0.002 percent of federal spending. “It is not too much more than what taxpayers spend each year on Trump’s golfing vacations”.

So what is clear is that the cuts are simply cruel and ideological rather than “fiscally responsible.”

Meanwhile, Trump would make the 2017 tax cuts permanent instead of expiring in 2025, costing $1.4 trillion over 10 years while boosting the incomes of the richest one percent by $40,000 more a year.

Even the so-called “investments” are fraudulent. Trump is once again proposing to spend $1 trillion over a decade on infrastructure but as he has demonstrated with Ukraine, the Gateway Tunnel and California high-speed rail and disaster aid, this would amount to no more than a slush fund he would use to extort political favors.

Defending the $2 trillion in “mandatory savings and reform” measures to the press, OMB Acting Director Russ Vought said repeatedly, “this President believes in getting people who are in a cycle of dependency..off of welfare onto the ladder of economic opportunity.”

He also said, “This is a budget that funds priorities where the President supports spending money… We are trying to fund what his priorities are, what his campaign commitments are… We’re going to keep proposing these types of budgets and hope that, at some point, Congress will have some sense of fiscal sanity and join us in trying to tackle our debt and deficits.”

So even though Trump’s budget is “dead on arrival” it is his clarion call to what a second term would look like. Moreover, even if lord willing he is replaced in 2021, the budget saddles the next president with his dystopian policies. Fiscal sanity and morality demand rejection of Trump and his proposed budget.

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