WASHINGTON – He calls it the “America First” budget, but the proposal Donald Trump unveiled yesterday pushes only billionaires to the head of the line. Most Americans get pushed aside.
The plan calls for killing or shrinking programs on which millions of low-income Americans depend, for gutting programs aimed at addressing climate change and for quashing U.S. efforts to help make the world safer.
All told, Trump’s proposal takes $54 billion from programs and agencies that have proven their worth and puts the money where the billionaires can easily grab it.
In 1961, in his farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower (“Ike”) warned that a major threat to democracy was coming from the “immense military establishment” that had joined with “a large arms industry.”
Today, the “military-industrial complex” has morphed into an amalgam of arms manufacturers, private prison corporations, money manipulators and fossil fuel conglomerates that rake in billions for the few who run them. Today, the threat identified by Ike is no longer a threat.
It’s a tragic reality.
“Every dollar of proposed cutbacks to domestic, diplomatic and international aid programs that Trump makes in the spending plan will go to boost defense and law enforcement funding, writes Shane Goldmacher in the Politico online newsletter.
The proposal released yesterday only covers programs that are renewed year by year, about one fourth of the entire federal budget. Trump has not yet addressed his plans for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the trillion dollar infrastructure program he says he wants or the tax giveaways he has promised the rich.
All that will come in May.
“Low priority programs”
Trump is calling for cutting every federal department and agency, except for Defense and Homeland Security. For example, the proposed cuts in the State Department and the Departments of Labor and Agriculture range from 16 to 29 percent.
The Department of Education would be slashed by 14 percent, with more money going to fund huge private education corporations.
The air traffic control system would also be handed to private corporations who would put profits over safety.
Hardest hit would be the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would suffer a cut of 31 percent. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has, in effect, taken steps to turn the EPA into a pollution-enabler agency and a front for the oil industry.
The budget would zero out funds to help native Alaskan villages obtain access to clean drinking water and modern sewage systems.
What’s more, write Steven Mufson and Tracy Jan in the Washington Post, the Trump budget “would slash or abolish programs that have provided low-income Americans with help on virtually all fronts, including affordable housing, banking, weatherizing homes, job training, paying home heating oil bills, and obtaining legal counsel in civil matters.”
The Trump budget would eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Habitat for Humanity, and the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which aims to help low-income job seekers age 55 and up.
Also, the Community Development Block Grant program would be killed. “The program provides cities with money to address a range of community development needs such as affordable housing, rehabilitating homes in neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures and preventing or eliminating slums and community blight,” Mufson and Jan explain.
The Trump budget would likewise eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Habitat for Humanity, and the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which aims to help low-income job seekers age 55 and up.
Furthermore, Trump would do away with the Meals on Wheels program, which serves close to 3 million seniors every year.
He’s called all these service programs “low priority.”
The bottom line: Trump would take $54 billion from existing programs and turn it over to the military, which in turn would hand it to corporations to build “new ships, fighter jets and other weapons,” according to a report by the Associated Press.
“[Trump is] handing tens of billions of dollars more to unaccountable defense contractors who will do absolutely nothing to improve military readiness,” J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees says.
Included in the $54 billion is money for Trump’s wall, a brazen construction industry boondoggle.
Touting it as a promise kept
The Trumpites are touting the budget proposal as Trump “keeping the campaign promises he made.”
Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, is quoted in Politico as saying he and his team pored over Trump’s speeches and wrote the budget “using the president’s own words. We turned those policies into numbers.”
Maybe they did, but they had a lot of different, contradictory policies to choose from.
Trump’s budget fulfills only the promises he made to his billionaire buddies.
For instance, Trump’s healthcare plan cuts back Medicaid for low-income people but gives the wealthy huge tax breaks. His nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, has a record of favoring corporations over working people.
And most of Trump’s cabinet picks are billionaires that aim to make sure the departments they head are geared toward making the rich richer.
The Trump budget makes plain that his promises to the American people were nothing more than flim flam.
For example, in his address to Congress, Trump promised that his administration would find “cures to the illnesses that have always plagued us.” Yet his budget mutilates the National Institutes of Health by slashing $5.8 billion from its budget.
He promised to help veterans, yet his budget proposal would eliminate aid to homeless vets.
He said he believed in giving incentives to the poor to find jobs, but his proposal cuts job training for low income workers and eliminates programs to help the unemployed find work.
And if Trump means to put in place a massive infrastructure improvement program, why does his proposal eliminate funding for highway projects and support of Amtrak?
Probably because he intends to give the money to private corporations to do the work at costs that will ensure they make a walloping big profit.
“This is a budget that pulled the rug out from working families and hurts the very people who President Trump promised to stand up for in rural America and in small towns,” Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, told the Washington Post.
The Post reports that “A study by the Center shows that the White House budget cuts will fall hardest on the rural and small town communities that Trump won, where one in three people are living paycheck to paycheck – a rate that is 24 percent higher than in urban counties.”