MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Trump’s Cruel War on Children

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Courtesy photo)

Our nation’s budget should reflect our nation’s professed values, but President Trump’s 2018 federal budget, “A New Foundation for America’s Greatness,” radically does the opposite.

This immoral budget declares war on America’s children, our most vulnerable group, and the foundation of our nation’s current and future economic, military and leadership security. It cruelly dismantles and shreds America’s safety net laboriously woven over the past half century to help and give hope to the 14.5 million children struggling today in a sea of poverty, hunger, sickness, miseducation, homelessness and disabilities. It slashes trillions of dollars from health care, nutrition and other critical programs that give poor babies and children a decent foundation in life to assure trillions of dollars in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and powerful corporations who do not deserve massive doses of government support.

The cruel Trump budget invests more in our military — already the most costly in the world — but denies vulnerable children and youths the income, health care, food, housing and education supports they need to become strong future soldiers to defend our country. Seventy-one percent of our 17- to 24-year-olds are now ineligible for military service, because of health and education deficits.

President Trump invests in fighting those he sees as outside enemies through weapons and walls and turns his back on the internal enemies that threaten the basic domestic needs of our people — health care, housing, education and jobs that pay living wages. The Congress and the people of the United States must reject President Trump’s 2018 budget and the mean-spirited values it reflects.

The president’s 2018 budget:

• slashes $610 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, which nearly 37 million children rely on for a healthy start in life and which pays for nearly half of all births and ensures coverage for 40 percent of our children with special health-care needs. The budget also assumes passage of the more than $800 billion additional cuts in Medicaid included in the American Health Care Act for a total Medicaid massacre of more than $1.4 trillion over 10 years;

• rips $5.7 billion from CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), which covers nearly 9 million children in working families ineligible for Medicaid;

• Snatches food out of the mouths and stomachs of hungry children by slicing $193 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which some still call food stamps. SNAP feeds nearly 46 million people, including nearly 20 million children. This cut is an unprecedented 25 percent reduction in a core safety net program that in 2014 lifted 4.7 million people, including 2.1 million children, out of poverty.

• chops $22 billion over 10 years from TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program) including $6 billion that eliminates the TANF Contingency Fund which helps support some of our neediest families;

• slashes programs to assist families with housing and end homelessness by $7.4 billion, a 15 percent cut for 2018 including $2.3 billion from Housing Choice Vouchers, which would leave more than 250,000 low income households without them; $1.8 billion — nearly 29 percent — from public housing already in desperate need of repair and expansion; and $133 million — 5.6 percent — from homeless assistance grants;

• whacks $72 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI), which more than 8 million children and adults with the most severe disabilities depend on to keep going. Despite the president’s promise not to cut Social Security, his budget cuts $48 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance, which assists, among others, grandparents and other relatives raising children because their parents cannot care for them;

• slashes job training programs by $1.1 billion, or 40 percent, over 10 years for youths, adults and dislocated workers. It denigrates the concept of public service jobs by eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service, and with it AmeriCorps, Vista and Senior Corps.

• cuts federal education funding $9.2 billion in 2018 alone at a time when a majority of children in all racial and economic groups cannot read or compute at grade level. It slashes $143 billion over 10 years from student loans by eliminating the loan program that encourages graduates to take public service jobs and restricts other programs that subsidize college education for first generation college students and others from low-income families;

• shears $54 billion in 2018 ($1.6 trillion over 10 years) in nondefense discretionary programs which include a broad range of health, early childhood, education, child welfare and juvenile justice programs as well as environmental protection, foreign assistance, medical and scientific research and other federal government programs. The Trump budget would reduce spending for these important programs 2 percent a year for the next 10 years;

• zeroes out funding for the Legal Services Corporation to deny the poor their only option to defend themselves against injustice; and

• eliminates core programs that offer extra assistance to low-income children, families and communities including the Social Service Block Grant ($1.4 billion in 2018 alone, $16.3 billion over 10 years); the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to ward off heat in the summer and cold in winter months ($3.4 billion); the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME, and Community Development Block Grant, Indian Community Development Block Grant, and Choice Neighborhood programs ($4.1 billion).

At the same time, President Trump’s 2018 budget includes an estimated $5 trillion tax package for the wealthiest individuals and corporations who neither need nor deserve massive government support and dramatically increases spending on defense and border security.

This draconian budget slashes over $3 trillion in the next decade and tramples America’s values and is anti-child, anti-poor and anti-low-income working people. It erodes the security of our nation’s future.

The Trump budget would not pass the test of any great faith or standard of fairness. It must be rejected resoundingly by the Congress and the American people.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.