Trump’s Starvation Budget

In a twist of irony, the White House released President Donald Trump’s starvation budget for Americans at home while he was dining at lavish tables on a grand tour overseas. Some say Trump’s plan is so draconian it’s dead on arrival. But even a modified version is likely to be extremely harsh. And there’s no doubt its main target—programs benefiting women, kids and the poor—will remain in the crosshairs. Everything from Health and Human Services (HHS) to the EPA is on the chopping block, and the result gives the big lie to the president’s rhetoric about looking out for women.

Mike Maguire

How would Trump’s grand scheme do harm? Let us count the ways:

Dangerously slashes Medicaid. The Trump Budget includes more than $600 billion in cuts to Medicaid. These cuts appear to be on top of the $834 billion that would ensue if Trumpcare became law. Meaning that under the Trump plan, Medicaid stands to lose around $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. Cuts this big will drastically reduce access to medical care for the program’s recipients, the majority of whom are women, with women of color disproportionately relying on Medicaid.

Defunds Planned Parenthood. In a historic first, the budget singles out an individual health care provider for cuts, specifically prohibiting funding from Medicaid and programs included in Labor-HHS appropriations. Planned Parenthood would lose Title X family planning money, along with programs for HIV prevention, breast and cervical cancer screening, and maternal and child health.

Cuts nutrition assistance for women and infants. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (known as WIC) is on the hit list with a proposed budget cut of $200 million. WIC is already underfunded, serving only 83 percent of eligible infants (as of 2013 data), and it has been forced to close a number of field offices in recent years.

Eliminates or cuts programs to combat violence against women. Trump’s plan includes a proposed 18 percent reduction in HHS funding and cuts to the Department of Justice. Both support services combating violence against women such as training for law enforcement, prevention and education, and they are crucial sources of federal funding for domestic violence shelters.

Makes college less affordable. Hopeful debates about federally funded free collegiate education are a thing of the past. The Trump administration wants college students to pay and pay big. Trump’s budget eliminates federally subsidized student loans and cuts $700 million from the Perkins loan program, meaning students will likely be forced to take out private loans at higher interest rates. It also eliminates the public service loan forgiveness program, which erases student-loan debt for those who work in public service jobs for 10 years (e.g., teachers, police officers, public defenders).

This piece appears in the Summer 2017 issue of Ms. Subscribe today to get a copy and become a member of the Ms. community!

No more heat, less to eat. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is zeroed out. This program provides assistance to low-income people who cannot afford seasonal spikes in energy costs or to restore heat that’s been cut off. An ancillary consequence of cutting LIHEAP would be loss of crucial food assistance in a number of states, because receiving LIHEAP also increases SNAP (food stamp) allotments under federal regulations, a program informally known as “Heat and Eat.” If LIHEAP disappears, so does the food that goes with it.

The harm doesn’t end at the water’s edge. The U.S. Agency for International Development, one of the largest foreign aid programs forfamily planning, is scheduled for a 30 percent cut. That’s on top of Trump’s already implemented cutoff of all present and future funds for the United Nations Population Fund, which provides family planning in 150 countries.

What’s not there speaks volumes. Trump has anointed his daughter Ivanka as point person on child care, family leave and equal pay, but there’s no mention of child care or equal pay in the budget, and the so-called family leave benefit is “baby only,” leaving out the worker’s illness and care for sick or elderly family members. Probably doesn’t matter: Experts agree there’s no way these initiatives could move forward at the same time Trump plans to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations, build the border wall and fund a military buildup—without raising the deficit.

These are just the highlights. There’s much more that will impact women disproportionately—though ultimately only Congress has the authority to set government spending levels and appropriate money. But with Republican majorities in both houses, that’s cold comfort.

Best strategy to combat the cuts? Make your voice heard often to elected officials, regardless of party or political philosophy.


Martha Burk is money editor at Ms.