Trump administration's budget cuts aren't economic, they're ideological
© istock

For nearly 50 years, Americans have celebrated Presidents’ Day as more than just a three-day weekend. We’ve recognized this day in honor of the leadership demonstrated from the most revered workplace: The Oval Office.

But for millions of hardworking Americans, they reap neither the benefit of added time spent with family nor the support of this administration’s priorities.

Instead, America’s working poor and their children continue to be caught in the crosshairs of the White House’s short-sighted and punitive proposals.

ADVERTISEMENT

Just last week, the White House released the president’s budget for fiscal year 2021, which proposes deep funding cuts to safety net programs.

Taken individually, each of these cuts would deal a hard blow to low-income families. Together, they’re devastating.

This budget would cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $180 billion between 2021 and 2030. It also proposes to replace a portion of SNAP benefits with so-called “Harvest Boxes,” or shipments of pre-selected shelf stable food mailed by the federal government.

This approach not only eliminates family meal choice, but it also disregards the SNAP program’s efficiency, the local economic benefits it provides and its low administrative costs.

It also seeks to cut child nutrition programs by $20 million in the first year and $1.7 billion over 10 years, putting recent progress to end childhood hunger at real risk.

The budget would slash Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars. With 1 in 5 Americans currently insured through Medicaid, this will undoubtedly increase chronic and acute illnesses for millions of people.

ADVERTISEMENT

But the cruelty of the proposal doesn’t stop there. It also cuts funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides low-cost health coverage for nearly 10 million children.

These proposed changes come with a cost: a cost to the health and future of our nation and its people.

Want less affordable housing and more housing insecurity? Look no further than the budget cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the elimination of programs that support the building and rehabilitation of affordable housing. Right now, 71 percent of extremely low-income households spend more than half of their incomes on housing. When the cost of living outmatches household wages, housing assistance programs are a critical way low-income Americans put a roof over their heads.

Let me be clear: this budget will make America sicker, poorer, hungrier and less safe.

But this isn’t a surprise. Over the last year, the administration has skirted the legislative process to enact its own policies that would harm children and the working poor.

Through its own rulemaking, the administration has proposed capping deductions for utility allowances, effectively forcing families to choose between utility bills or buying groceries. To be eligible for SNAP, it wants to create stricter work requirements for those struggling to find employment, which would result in nearly 700,000 Americans losing benefits. It seeks to eliminate a policy that helps working poor families get back on their feet, which would cause kids to lose access to SNAP and direct enrollment in the free school meal program.

The cumulative impact of these policy choices would be devastating for our nation.

Millions of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, one unplanned expense away from food insecurity. According to the Federal Reserve, four out of 10 Americans couldn’t come up with $400 for an emergency expense, like a medical bill, without selling something or borrowing money.

These are the people who will bear the biggest burden of these policy choices. And when more barriers to your basic needs are constructed, food security becomes collateral damage. Because food is one of the easiest things to cut when family budgets are strained.

That’s why it’s critical we invest in the nutrition programs that feed kids and are proven to be effective at ending hunger and poverty.

When we make sure kids have the nutrition they need at school, at home and during the summer months, we’re ensuring they have higher academic performances, better mental and physical health and are able to escape the cycle of poverty.

These proposed cuts to critical programs come against the backdrop of a record high stock market and much improved job growth. If there ever were a time for our nation to be generous in supporting those who have been left behind, this is it.

The only explanation for such cruel cuts is ideological, not economic.

The policies coming from this administration violate the fundamental social contract we have as a nation to provide for the basic human needs of our most vulnerable people. On this Presidents’ Day, we should celebrate that contract, not undermine it.

Billy Shore is the founder and executive chairman of Share Our Strength, the parent organization for the No Kid Hungry campaign. He is the host of Share Our Strength’s podcast, Add Passion and Stir.