The Trump administration is drawing a callous line in the sand with the new fiscal budget, which is expected to come to a vote next week in the Senate after passing through the House last Thursday. Because a budget resolution will trigger a “reconciliation period” in the chamber, the legislation needs only 51 votes to pass—and the impending enactment of the fiscal plan is frightening in its blatant suppression of civil liberties and disregard for social welfare.
The budget proposes $1.5 trillion in cuts to federal spending, setting its particular sights on the decimation of programs that aid lower income families, the elderly, students and women. Meanwhile, substantial tax breaks are afforded to large corporations and the wealthy. The harsh reality of the new budget is that it will perpetuate the hardships faced by the most economically vulnerable and worsen poverty in the U.S.
“According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, 80 percent of the budget’s tax cuts will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans,” Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, said in an email to members. “Those households, which make more than $900,000 a year, would see their taxes drop by more than $200,000 on average. Meanwhile 30 percent of households making between $50,000 and $150,000 a year would see a tax increase, as would the majority of households making between $150,000 and $300,000. After failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, this budget bill is simply another attempt to give wealthy donors and major corporations a massive tax benefit.” FM is urging their members to reach out to Senators about the legislation.
Medicare and Medicaid will feel the most visceral effects of the new budget, which cuts funding for these programs to the tune of over $1 trillion and leaves millions without care. The bill also seeks to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 and standardize a defined benefit pension plan, providing qualifying beneficiaries—many of whom are retired, elderly and the disabled—with a yearly stipend of a mere $8,000 to cover their care. Planned Parenthood would be defunded. To make matters worse, Social Security Disability Insurance—which provides financial assistance to workers with disabilities, has proved vital for women in the workplace and keeps many single-income families above the poverty line—would be forced to restrict program eligibility should the budget’s severe cuts to the program’s funding remain in the final version.
Also on the chopping block in Trump’s budget are programs ensuring education equity and equal opportunity for low-income children. The House bill eliminates $54 billion in federal funding to certain educational programs, downscales federally subsidized student loans, defunds initiatives as the public service loan forgiveness program and rescinds nearly $150 billion in funding from SNAP and other federal institutions designed to address poverty. In the wake of these cuts, programs like SNAP will be forced to further diminish certain essential benefits—most profoundly affecting the 44 percent of SNAP beneficiaries who are children—and programs like HeadStart and loan forgiveness initiatives will leave low-income children and college students without a fair shot at completing their educations.
The budget further encumbers children and minorities by placing restrictions on Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit eligibility. Under the bill, IRS-issued tax identification numbers will no longer be admissible, and immigrants will be required to furnish proof of a social security number in order to claim credit. The EITC and CTC have been integral institutions in combating poverty; the modification to these programs will have grand, adverse effects on hardworking immigrants and their families.
But the budget doesn’t forsake explicit attacks on women, people of color and other marginalized groups. The package directly attacks several institutions accountable in the preservation of civil liberties and equalities. $1.7 million in cuts to the staffing budget for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would result in the scaling back of funding for anti-bullying campaigns, mental health services and after-school programs—all programs proven to be crucial in the cognitive development and welfare of students. Trump also proposed a complete elimination of the division of the Department of Labor responsible for holding federal contractors accountable to non-discriminatory employment practices; a 75 percent reduction in funding for the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau—an office which operates on the direct behalf of female workers—is a pointed attack on women and minorities that eliminates the protections necessitated by years of discriminatory hiring procedures and unethical workplace conditions.
Trump’s budget is expected to come to a vote in the Senate on October 16. Women’s rights organizations across the country are speaking out against Trump’s budget, working in coalition to defeat it in Congress. A Statement of Principles for Women’s Empowerment in the President’s FY 2018 Budget—signed by over 60 organizations including Feminist Majority, the National Organization for Women, the American Association of University Women, Black Women’s Blueprint, Jewish Women International, Moms Rising, NARAL, the National LGBTQ Task Force, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood and UltraViolet—demanded that Trump draft a budget that improves women’s health funding, helps women achieve economic security and fund efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence.
“The President’s responsibility to support women will not be satisfied with mere rhetoric about ‘women’s empowerment’ and ‘investing in women,’ while simultaneously dismantling the policies and programs which are essential to so many women and families,” the coalition wrote. “Women and families will only thrive 1 and succeed when people have the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about their lives. Our elected officials play a critical role in leveling the playing field for women’s empowerment. It is against this standard that we fully intend to evaluate the President’s forthcoming budget. If it succeeds on all measures, then so too will women in the United States. But if it fails on any, we will wholeheartedly reject it.”
Sarah Alexander is a recent graduate of Cal State Northridge. In addition to being a writer, she is a visual and performing artist, and attempts to use film, music and online platforms to spark conversation about social activism. She is an anomalous LA native, which affects her personality in a plethora of unique ways.