President Trump released his first budget blueprint on Thursday, proposing $54 billion in cuts to a wide variety of discretionary spending programs and federal department budgets, eliminating nineteen programs entirely.
Under his plan, that money would be re-appropriated to increase defense spending, build the wall along the border with Mexico, and jumpstart the school voucher program. The departments that would see the largest bumps in funding would be the Defense Department (+9%), the Department of Homeland Security (+7%), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (+6%).
But in order to pay for some of his lofty campaign promises, the President has demonstrated a willingness to cut funding to everything from medical research to humanitarian aid to national programs that feed low-income children and the elderly.
Trump’s plan cuts 31% of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, which would bring it from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion a year, eliminating 20 percent of the agency’s workforce and cutting over 50 EPA programs. The State Department would see a nearly 29 percent budget cut under President Trump’s plan, eliminating funds to UN climate change initiatives and reducing funds to UN peacekeeping and USAID humanitarian and development aid. Other departments with more than a double digit percentage cut to their budgets include Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Interior.
Then there are the programs the President would eliminate completely: the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program currently provides $3 billion a year to help America’s poor heat their homes in the winter; the Appalachian Regional Commission, which invests in business development, worker training and infrastructure in the impoverished region; and the National Endowment of the Arts, National Endowment of the Humanities and public broadcasting organizations including PBS and NPR.
Perhaps the two most contentious proposed program eliminations are to those that aim to feed the nation’s most vulnerable: poor children and the elderly. Trump proposes completely cutting the $3 billion in funding for the Community Development Block Grant, which funds the nation’s Meals on Wheels program that provides vital meals, friendly contact and safety checks for America’s poor and elderly. The organization claims it saves the country $34 billion a year that would otherwise be spent on medical expenses for seniors involved in home accidents, like falling.
His budget would also cut $9 billion from the Department of Education. That would drastically cut funding to Pell Grants, which help low-income students pay for college, and completely eliminate the funding to 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which give children in impoverished communities after-school programs and food.
In a stunning display of the administration’s ideology concerning feeding America’s impoverished children, Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Budget and Management said at a press conference, “Let’s talk about after school programs generally. They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? I mean, that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home, get fed so they do better in school. Guess what? There’s not demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better in school. Which is what, when we took your money from you, to say look we’re going to go spend it on an after school program, the way we justified it was ‘This program is going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs,’ and there’s no proof they’re doing that.”
While the President’s proposed budget is just an outline that Congress will undoubtedly alter, it is a stark reminder of the administration’s priorities and plans for the direction of the country.
Media Resources: Esquire 3/16/17; Washington Post 3/16/17