On Monday Feb 12, 2018 the White House published the president’s Budget, which is a blueprint for priorities for 2019. The vision President Trump offers in this budget is grim for people of faith and justice seekers around the country. He funds policies and programs that aid the most affluent individuals and powerful corporations to accumulate more wealth while tens of millions of struggling Americans must reduce their already modest standards of living.
Last week, lawmakers in both parties went around Mr. Trump to strike their own budget compromise, and made it clear they had no intention of embracing the entirety of President Trump’s plan. However, the president’s outline must still be taken seriously as it sets the tone for the upcoming legislative season and helps us measure the intensity of the threats to the marginalized.
The 207th General Assembly (1995) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called on Congress, “to defeat any proposals that base budget or deficit reductions primarily on the services provided to children, families, the needy, and the homeless,” and urged the strengthening of federal commitments to these groups. The Assembly also called on Congress, “to insist on a government that follows ethical values of justice for the poor, welfare for children, hospitality to the stranger, and assistance to the disadvantaged.” (Minutes, p. 718)
By almost every measure, the President’s budget proposal divests support from low income and working people, and further erodes the chasm between rich and poor, healthy and sick, neighbor and stranger.
Below, the Office of Public Witness has outlined some of the most severe risks in the president’s budget:
Care for Creation:
- It would scrap the Global Climate Change Initiative and phase out funding for State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development programs related to climate change.
- It would slash funding for the EPA by 23% and eliminate or nearly eliminate all programs that relate to addressing climate change.
- It proposes once again to repeal the ACA’s coverage expansions, gouge Medicaid deeply on top of that — cutting Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children, as well as other adults — and to eliminate federal protections for people with pre-existing conditions. That would leave millions more low- and moderate-income people uninsured or underinsured.
- It proposes deep cuts in basic nutrition, housing, and income assistance for millions of Americans below or close to the poverty line, most of whom work for low wages, are elderly or living with a disability, or care for young children. For example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) alone would be slashed by a stunning $213 billion (or nearly 30 percent) over ten years. Under the budget’s proposals, at least 4 million low-income people would lose their SNAP benefits altogether.
- In a particularly grave insult to those living in poverty, the budget suggests that SNAP recipients would no longer be able to choose foods that best suit the needs of their families and would instead receive a premade box of canned and non-perishable foods. This would nearly eliminate access to healthy fruits and vegetables and is an affront to the dignity of working people.
- Its proposals would lead to the eviction of many people receiving rental assistance if they don’t have jobs or aren’t enrolled in work programs, even as it also proposes to raise rents sharply on many of them if they do Their rent would rise from 30 percent of their income — after accounting for child care and other costs — to 35 percent of their gross income with no accounting for the costs of child care that may be essential to give poor mothers an opportunity to work. Moreover, many working families would likely lose SNAP benefits and health coverage. And, the budget’s shrunken overall levels of funding for domestic appropriated programs, especially after 2019, would also lead to cuts over time in job training and college aid.
While the US already spends more on its military than the next 7 wealthiest nations combined, this budget would increase military spending by 7% – to 61 percent of the funds Congress appropriates annually. In addition to increasing funds for waging war, the budget cuts funds for the key methods of preventing military conflict. The budget would cut the State Department and foreign aid by 41% and slash programs like development assistance, food aid, and human rights promotion.
Although many of the President’s policy proposals may never be formalized, his vision for the future of the country is starkly at odds with the mandate from Mathew 25:
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (NRSV)
It is imperative that Presbyterians seek to counter these harmful proposals in the halls of power and lift our voices in the name of justice, abundance and peace at every opportunity throughout the next legislative season.