ABOVE CARTOON: John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune
By Jesse J. Holland
WASHINGTON — Advocates for minority communities say President Donald Trump’s proposed budget answers the question he famously posed to Black Americans during his campaign: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
His $4.1 trillion spending plan for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 generally makes deep cuts in safety net programs, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Social Security’s disability program.
“Here is the reality: Many poor Black families and Brown families and Asian families and indigenous families will be devastated by this budget,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, founder of Philadelphia’s Living Water United Church of Christ.
The White House said its budget would put the country back on track for a healthy economy.
“We’re not going to measure compassion by the amount of money that we spend, but by the number of people that we help,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said this past week.
Critics decry the priorities in Trump’s budget, which Congress is unlikely to pass as submitted. Still, it will serve as a guidepost for what the White House wants lawmakers to deliver to the president.
“It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us, the youngest, the oldest, the poorest, and hardworking people who need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent middle-class life,” Hillary Clinton said Friday.
Trump’s budget would slash Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provide health insurance for millions of poor families, by $616 billion over the next decade. It would cut the food stamp program by $191 billion over the next decade and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program by $22 billion.
“Great nations are known by how they care for the old and the vulnerable, not by how much they can take away from them to give to their wealthy friends,” NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell said.
Several people pointed to the targeting of the Education Department for a 13 percent cut as particularly troubling.
That “will undoubtedly hurt our most vulnerable children, especially those from low-income and working-class Black families, who rely on access to special education programs, well-trained teachers, smaller class sizes, literacy grants, and before and after school programs – all of which will be at risk for cuts or elimination,” said Jacqueline Cooper, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said Trump’s budget “wastes billions of dollars on a costly and ineffective border wall and deportation force” while proposing cuts to programs that have been essential to helping Hispanic families.
The budget seeks $2.6 billion for border security technology, including money to design and build a wall along the southern border. Trump repeatedly promised voters during the campaign that Mexico would pay for a wall, a notion that Mexican officials have rejected.
NAACP officials said Trump’s proposal would gut civil rights enforcement in the federal government.
It would defund and cut at least 10 percent of key civil rights enforcement positions across the government, including positions at the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Legal Services Corporation, which helped more than 2 million low-income individuals with legal representation last year, advocates said.
“I am not sure what is more insidious – regurgitating the sham of old trickle-down theories of economics or purposely refusing to adequately fund civil rights positions necessary to protect individuals from voter suppression, job discrimination or police brutality,” Russell said.
The budget does maintain the same funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions from President Barack Obama’s administration. It reinstates year-round Pell Grants and increases charter school spending, which the Thurgood Marshall College Fund “can utilize to build and strengthen K-12 pipeline initiatives that operate on several HBCU campuses,” said the fund’s president, Johnny Taylor.
But United Negro College Fund President Michael Lomax noted that HBCUs will be hurt in other ways.
“In fact, the proposed budget would cut federal financial aid lifelines that thousands of HBCU students depend on to attend college and earn their degrees,” Lomax said.
Native American groups, who say their needs are perpetually underfunded, say the cuts would worsen their plight.
“Tribes have had to endure too many budget cuts over the years as it is, but this proposal cuts even deeper,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which represents 57 Native American tribes in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, California, Montana and Idaho. “It is so severe that it’s absolutely illogical and unreasonable.”