Trump budget slashes food stamps and Medicare to feed the military
Spending heavily on the military, Trump's budget slams human services and puts forward what critics say is an unacceptably puny infrastructure plan. | Susan Walsh/AP

WASHINGTON –  President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint for the year starting Oct. 1 features huge cuts in food stamps and Medicare and kills public broadcasting – among other things – all to pay more for the Pentagon.

Oh, and the $4.4 trillion spending plan calls – again – for eliminating the Affordable Care Act.

Trump unveiled his spending plan, which included eliminating 22 agencies and freezing pay for the nation’s 2.2 million federal workers, with his usual fanfare. He also wants to cut the Labor Department’s spending by one-fifth. The Medicare cut would be $266 billion and food stamps would lose $200 billion.

Meanwhile, Trump trumpeted the spending hike for the military and threw in $18 billion for his Mexican Wall, too.

He gave the back of his hand to the Dreamers, and his budget director took a swipe at Mexico by criticizing “our porous southern border.” Trump demanded $782 million and 2,750 more agents for the Border Patrol. And he included a $1.5 trillion multi-year spending plan on infrastructure, with states and cities forced to pay more than four-fifths of the bill.

The infrastructure plan actually reduces traditional federal involvement in infrastructure by turning on its head the normal ratio in these programs of four federal dollars to every one dollar of state, local or private dollars, thereby making the federal government the minor partner. Experts say the proposal will never allow replacement of 60,000 unsafe bridges across the nation or replacement of rotting transit system infrastructures from coast to coast. “You wanted an infrastructure plan so here it is,” the president said in an announcement today. “If you don’t want it that’s ok with me too.”

Except for Government Employees President J. David Cox, who spoke with reporters during the union’s legislative conference, unions were still analyzing the budget as of mid-afternoon on Feb. 12. Trump unveiled it at noon. But the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and congressional Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., panned it.

“The president budgets a pay freeze. We’ve had three years of a pay freeze, two years of a 1 percent increase” each year, and one year of pay parity “but not a second,” Cox said. “We’ve also had a 6 percent pay cut” in higher pension contributions “with no increase in pensions,” he added.

“There’s nothing good we see in this budget. It’s not a land of milk and honey.”

Pelosi was similarly scathing. “Wealthy people will celebrate. Working people will sacrifice,” she tweeted.

And Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., a Democrat seeking re-election in the crosshairs of a massive GOP spending blitz, noted that even GOP Gov. Scott Walker – an anti-worker right winger – criticized Trump’s infrastructure plan, which was also part of the president’s budget.

“The problem is the president is putting up only 13 percent of his $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan. Who’s going to pay for the rest?” her tweet asked.

Meanwhile, Trump claimed his Defense Secretary, retired general Jim Mattis, called him to say “Wow!” after the president proposed $716 billion for weaponry, troops and other military spending.

Trump’s budget didn’t surprise the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank.

“Unless the priorities in the new budget represent a sharp departure from last year’s Trump budget — and prior congressional Republican budget plans — it will present an agenda that would increase poverty, inequality, and the ranks of the uninsured while underfunding core public services and investments in various areas important for long-term growth,” the Center said.

The Center also listed the 22 agencies Trump wants to kill. Besides the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides huge shares of the money for the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, others range from international food aid to schools to loans and grants to revitalize rural areas to research on effective health care to climate change research to killing both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

He also wants to kill the Legal Services Corporation, which through the states and cities funds lawyers for indigent defendants – funding required as a result of a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Public broadcasting and the two endowments have been favorite right wing bugaboos for at least 30 years, and the loan and grant program, part of the Agriculture Department, ironically helps communities that went heavily for Trump in the 2016 election.  And the right and corporations hate the public service lawyers when those attorneys stand up against environmental degradation and housing discrimination.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, like Baldwin, criticized Trump’s infrastructure plan.

“Unfortunately, today’s proposal relies more on accounting gimmicks and Wall Street investors than on a new federal commitment, which leaves states and municipalities to pick up the tab,” he pointed out.

“The right infrastructure plan will lift our communities and drive our economy forward for

generations to come…If our nation’s leaders are serious about building America, they need to step up with trillions of dollars in new federal funding that supports America’s jobs, America’s resources and America’s products. And they need to uphold high labor standards and good wages and protect working people on the job.”

Former top Obama administration advisor Dan Pfeiffer pointed out the budget “may be dead on arrival legislatively, but it is a big deal politically. Cutting Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy is something for Dems to run on,” he tweeted.

“I worked 47 years full time as an RN paying into the social contracts of Social Security and Medicare,” Patricia Carr tweeted in reply. “I don’t call that an entitlement. The programs are not entitled, because they have the blood, sweat and tears of hardworking Americans for generations.”

John Wojcik contributed to this story.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.