Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trump budget par for his course: upside down, inside out

"I want to be a strong voice to reform social service programs so that we can encourage and help people get back to work, rather than the system we’re stuck with today, with all the federal rules and regulations, that really just keeps people dependent on government."

Talk like this by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in her interview with The Courier newspaper in northwest Ohio sums up for the hard-of-learning why uber-conservative Republicans like her will fall in line, and in love, with the upside down, inside out budget President Donald Trump proposed Tuesday.

Taylor and GOP congressman Jim Renacci, who last week won the Ohio Republican Party's endorsement to take on two-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, set their compass headings for TrumpWorld, where debt and deficits no longer seem to matter. 

Candidate Donald Trump in Columbus
The White House summed up its view of the 2019 budget this way: This document provides for a strong national defense, promoting a healthy American economy and curbing wasteful Washington spending." For Taylor and her term-limited, lame-duck governor boss, John Kasich, weaning citizens off government programs designed to help them bridge the gap when paying the rent, feeding the family and weathering sickness on their own dime falls short, Trump's $4.4 trillion budget reads like Simon Legree, the brutal taskmaster slave owner made infamous by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her Civil War era novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," wrote it.

In Ohio, where midterm elections will determine the fate of Ohio for maybe decades to come, the White House budget would deliver cruel cuts to benefits that so many Buckeyes rely on every day to make ends in their life meet. Among the many cuts in domestic spending, a perennial target Republicans love to shoot, is a $200 billion cut to Medicare. Democrats say Trump's budget cuts are unconscionable, especially in light of a tax cut bill passed in December that lavishes billions on the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporations by expanding the debt by another $1.5 trillion.

The AP reports that "if enacted as proposed ... the plan would establish an era of $1 trillion-plus yearly deficits." For perspective, it says, "Trump’s pattern is in line with past Republican presidents who have overseen spikes in deficits as they simultaneously increased military spending and cut taxes." The proposed budget foresees adding deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade.

“We’re going to have the strongest military we’ve ever had, by far,” Trump said, according to remarks he made in an Oval Office appearance Monday. “In this budget we took care of the military like it’s never been taken care of before.”

On healthcare, Trump expects the GOP-controlled Congress will repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Recent history shows that Republicans come out losers when they try to do that, since they have no alternative that works without leaving millions losing their coverage, as the Congressional Budget Office has determined. Relying on states to devise their own programs is currently a bridge to far to cross.

For lovers of the arts, get ready to cry out loud as the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, whose combined funding total is about $300 million, are targeted for shutdown. Saving them will rely on Republicans and Democrats who like them to fight for them. The same goes for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, two more federal investments that are on the chopping block.

The Environmental Protection Agency, created by President Richard Nixon in 1970, is also slated for reduction by more than one-third, including ending the Climate Change Research and Partnership Programs. Trump isn't a fan of federal employees, so there's no surprise in budget numbers that show agency staffing could be cut by more than 20 percent from budgeted 2018 levels. There are currently 14,162 employees at the agency, the AP reports, the lowest staffing levels since the mid-1980s.

Also in the crosshairs is Housing and Urban Development, which faces funding cuts for rental assistance programs, the elimination of community block grants. Moreover, anticipated future legislation would apply work requirements for some tenants receiving public assistance.

If you're poor and hungry, get used to it, because Trump’s budget hits at 42 million Americans with food stamps who will have work requirements to fulfill. The 2019 budget reduces SNAP by roughly $213 billion over the next 10 years.

School choice advocates rejoice, the Donald is on your side. Trump is behind putting more decision-making power in the hands of parents and families to choose a school for their children. A $1.5 billion investment that would expand both private and public school choice is in the budget.

In broad strokes, the massive spending bill delivers giant setbacks to domestic programs that the poor and middle class currently enjoy, like food stamps, housing subsidies and student loans. Medicare providers would be hit with approximately $500 billion in cuts, representing a nearly 6 percent reduction, but retirement benefits would escape the ax. Meanwhile, proposed changes would mean some Social Security disability program participants would be required to find a job to maintain eligibility. Similar requirements would apply to housing subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid.

Richard Cordray, a Democratic candidate for governor who resigned last year from leading the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, said in response to the budget release that the Wite House and like-minded Republicans "didn't mind adding more than a trillion dollars to our deficit to help their rich donors and corporate sponsors. But when it comes to programs that help children, the poor, and the disabled, they tell us cuts need to be made. They've mortgaged our fiscal future only to line the pockets of people like the Koch brothers."

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan labeled Trump's budget proposal in a tweet "a non-starter." "The only function the President's budget proposal serves is to remind us how completely out of whack his priorities are for the American people," Ryan, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said a statement.

No comments: