President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to lead a “worker’s party.”
He was swept to power by voters in small-towns and rural America who believed him when he said he would “rebuild your communities.” Yet, his “skinny budget” released last week pulls the rug out from the same workers and communities he promised to protect and lift up.
One in three Americans in rural counties that went for President Trump live paycheck to paycheck – 24 percent more than in urban counties. But Trump’s budget turns its back on these voters and strips resources from their families and towns.
His plan to rebuild rural communities? Cut $500 million for rural water and sewage improvements and slash $403 million in programs that help support primary care providers in rural areas, including training for nurses and physician’s assistants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture alone is cut by more than 20 percent.
His plan to make the GOP a worker’s party? Cut job training, close down Job Corps Centers, and gut funding for Department of Labor to enforce the laws that protect workers and from wage theft.
His budget also slashes the basic living standards that families turn to when times are hard or wages aren’t enough.
Among the programs on the chopping block for elimination are: energy assistance for families struggling to keep the heat on; funding to help veterans, seniors, and struggling families stay in their homes; and the legal services corporation, which is the only access to legal counsel low-income families face in many rural communities.
And don’t forget about those pesky after-school programs that Trump’s budget director calls a “waste of money” despite evidence showing their results.
These cuts are on top of an agenda that, since day one, has been at odds with the interests of workers and squarely on the side of Wall Street. Under the House Obamacare replacement bill, 24 million Americans would lose their health coverage to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services just sent a letter to Governors indicating its willingness to waive longstanding Medicaid rules that protect low-income Americans and people with disabilities.
And that $1 trillion infrastructure package that Trump campaigned on? It looks to be mainly tax breaks for Wall Street, and would leave out many rural and small-town communities since their projects might not be profitable for investors.
Many have declared President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE’s budget dead on arrival, or asked why he would pursue cuts that harm his own base. But in some ways a proposal to cut $54 billion from the domestic budget to pay for increased defense spending is a calculated move.
By proposing such an extreme budget, Trump is shifting the window to make flat-funding of critical programs after years of cuts look like a good deal.
It is not.
Non-defense discretionary spending is already set to fall to historic lows as a share of the economy. This means that investments in the part of the budget that funds research, infrastructure, jobs centers, Head Start, housing, and nutrition for women, infants, and children is steadily going down. Add in the $54 billion of cuts to domestic programs that President Trump wants to use to pay for military spending and the wall, and you have a recipe for disinvestment and decline.
Congress should be pushing to restore funding to our starved domestic budget; not negotiating with Trump on whether or not to continue letting our domestic investments wane.
President Trump’s budget proposal may hurt his own base, but Congress doesn’t have to take the bait.
Melissa Boteach is the vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at American Progress. She oversees American Progress’ poverty policy development and analysis, as well as its advocacy and outreach work. She has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, and C-SPAN. She was named as one of Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 for law and policy in 2011. Follow Center for American Progress on Twitter @amprog. Follow Boteach on Twitter @mboteach.
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