Looking at Trump’s Budget Through a Gender Lens

 “The cruel and shortsighted cuts in President Trump’s budget request are a roadmap to a sicker, weaker America,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a recent statement. “President Trump wants to ransack as much as $2 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid,” she explained. “While demanding billions more for his wasteful, ineffective wall, President Trump will steal from students and hungry families, from rural communities and American farmers, from clean air and clean water and from vital, job-creating investments nationwide.”

The Speaker, of course, is right.

Activists outside the U.S. Capitol during the Poor People’s Campaign’s 40 Days of Action campaign in the summer of 2018. (Jessie Palatucci for United Church of Christ / Creative Commons)

While it may be dead-on-arrival in the House, the 150-page budget reveals a lot about Trump’s top priorities as his reelection campaign gets into full swing. There seems to be no limit to what the lap-dog Republican Senate will allow, and it’ll be an interesting test of just how far they’re willing to go to align themselves with an unpopular president’s unpopular agenda.

Trump’s budget once again throws loads of money at the Pentagon—a five percent raise—and Homeland Security, including the wall—a 7.5 percent hike. The other side of the ledger contains massive cuts impacting almost all ordinary Americans, most prominently women and kids. 

Let us count the ways. (And remember: These cuts are just the ones that will hurt women and kids the most. There’s plenty more to worry about, like 12 percent hits for Health and Human Services and Education, trimming health services and a range of student aid programs that are about to be at risk.)

#1: Leaving Older Women Without a (Social Safety) Net

It’s a fact of life that women make less money and live longer than men, which translates to more dependence on programs like Medicare and Social Security in old age.

The Trump budget cuts $845 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years, mainly by eliminating the perennial “waste, fraud and abuse.” Just in case that’s not enough, it also cuts payments to hospitals and providers and lowers compensation to hospitals for treating patients who can’t pay their bills. The budget also calls for requiring Medicare beneficiaries to get prior approval for certain medical services, although it doesn’t specify which ones.

After repeatedly promising not to cut to Social Security, Trump is proposing doing just that—mainly from a single change to the Social Security Disability Insurance program. It’s a direct hit to the most vulnerable recipients. A new sleight-of-hand formula would reduce disability program outlays by $3.61 billion between 2020 and 2024. 

#2: Sickening Changes to Healthcare Policy

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the budget would add millions to the ranks of the uninsured—by repealing the Affordable Care Act, with its subsidies that help people afford marketplace health coverage and nationwide protections for people with pre-existing conditions; and because of deep cuts to Medicaid through block grants, which is really double-speak for letting states pick and choose who gets covered and for how long. (Spoiler Alert: 76 percent of Medicaid’s enrollees are low-income women and children.)

Other cuts to Medicaid are accomplished in Trump’s budget just by way of making it harder to get coverage. His proposal requires additional documentation of citizenship or immigration status, re-imposes asset tests and raises the bar for some seniors and people with disabilities to qualify without selling their homes.

#3: Out of the Mouths of Babes

In a typical month, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, helps the families of nearly 20 million children afford an adequate diet. Nearly half of SNAP recipients—44 percent—are children, and more than half of them are under school age. All told, the program covers a shocking one in four children in the U.S.;  another 21 percent are adults who live with those children.

These numbers are shocking and disappointing, but Trump’s budget doesn’t aim to improve them. Instead, it shrinks the program by more than $213 billion over 10 years—eliminating eligibility for at least four million people in the process. It also caps additional help now available to larger households, cutting benefits to many families with several children, or for kids who live with grandparents and other family members.

#4: Careless and Callous Parenting Policies

The bad news budget pretends to throw women and families a tiny bone, but it’s one with zero meat. While Trump’s rhetoric calls for six weeks of paid family leave for new parents including adoptive ones, his budget makes room only for a stingy one-time outlay of $1 billion—0.021 percent of the budget in full—to “stimulate employer investments in child care…. by removing unnecessary regulations such as zoning requirements and encouraging business to establish child care facilities for their employees.”


Martha Burk is money editor at Ms.