President Trump’s new budget proposal, released February 12, includes measures to end federal funding for PBS and National Public Radio, as well as the elimination of vital student loan programs. It would also replace the SNAP program with “foods packages.” Trump’s plan would also demand major cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
I didn’t think I’d have to explain how ripping apart crucial safety nets of our society is a mistake, but here we are.
If you’re a numbers person, the cuts in the proposal will make your head spin. A cut to EPA spending by 33 percent, cuts to the Department of Labor by 21 percent, the State Department by 26 percent. Medicare is cut by 7 percent, and Medicaid and SNAP slashed by 22 and 27 percent, respectively. The Housing and Urban Development Department also gets a cut by 14 percent, and the Department of Education by 5.
With the cuts to the Education Department, income-based loan repayment plans would be massively reduced, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program completely eliminated, strengthen the government’s ability to go after students who don’t pay their loans, and subsidized student loans would be ended. Granted, these changes would only go into effect for loans taken out after June, 2019, but the proposals would leave potential college students in a higher risk environment.
The Medicare and Medicaid cuts are horrible, but unsurprising; Republicans have been itching for an excuse to gut the programs, and passing their tax bill last year was it. However, because Medicare is a widespread and popular program, they opted to draft tremendous cuts to Medicaid first. As a more means-tested program, it’s less likely cuts would meet resistance from the general populace.
Perhaps the most absurd items in Trump’s budget is the changes to the food stamp program. If it were passed, low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month (which is over 80 percent of all food stamp recipients) would get about half of their benefits in the form of a “USDA Foods package.” The package was described in the budget as consisting of “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables.” The plan is under the auspices of “preventing fraud,” even though the USDA admitted in their most recent audit that the Food Stamps program has “one of the lowest fraud rates for Federal programs.” But austerity obsessed politicians don’t care. They’ve perpetuated the myth of the “welfare queen” for decades, demonizing Americans whose only sin is poverty.
We don’t know how much of this proposal will survive the budget negotiations, but that Trump’s team had the gall to suggest any of these items speaks volumes.
What this tells the American people, and the world for that matter is the continuation of the “debt and death” paradigm is the priority of the folks in Washington: they will increase the defense budget, gut social programs, and privatize what they can.