Trump’s vaunted “skinny” budget attacks many areas of US social spending, perhaps none more cruel than funding for programs that help the country’s poorest children.
His administration is proposing cuts to scores of programs that benefit disadvantaged youth, including food stamps, student loan access, and federal work-study opportunities.
This appears to contradict Trump’s campaign assurances that he would give a voice to America’s underprivileged, those who had felt left out by a string of economic recoveries accompanied by anemic or non-existent wage growth as well as deep and polarising income inequality.
“Improving the childhood environment of economically disadvantaged youth and providing for basic housing, health, and nutrition needs of low-income families advances economic security and upward mobility,” writes Melissa Kearney, economist professor at the University of Maryland, in her chapter of a new e-book published by VoxEU entitled “Economics and Policy in the Age of Trump.”
“A sustained, and ideally strengthened, system of federal anti-poverty programs would make it possible for more children to succeed in school and become productive workers in adulthood,” she argues.
However, a look at the ‘skinny budget’ put forward by the Trump administration, along with the rhetoric from some key Congressional leaders, suggests weakened support for programs that provide assistance to low-income families and children. Given the economic and social challenges facing the United States today, such policy changes would move the nation in exactly the wrong direction.”
Trump’s White House budget director Mick Mulvaney took some heat, rightly, for arguing there was no “demonstrable evidence” that
after-school programs which feed and educate children so they do better in school are working. As if food and education were not ends in themselves.
The proposed budget includes a $US1.4 billion increase for public and private school programs, but cuts funding for before- and after-school programs. It would also cut federal funding for Meals on Wheels, a program that provides daily meals to millions of low-income seniors across the country.
What might this mean in practice?
“Proposals to block grant both the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program) and Medicaid threaten to undermine the critical safety net feature of the programs,” says Kearney.
That’s because this would give states discretion not to expand the programs when they are needed most, like during economic downturns.
“Only with a strong set of support programs and targeted interventions will the United States be able to thwart intergenerational poverty, renew the promise of equal opportunity, and foster shared prosperity,” Kearney writes.
Importantly, these reductions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the impact that two flagship Trump policies would have. Independent think tanks have said that both his attempts to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law and his effort to cut taxes sharply would disproportionately favour the rich.
Here’s a closer look at what gets cuts and what gets bolstered in Trump’s first budget.