If there were ever any doubts about the capacity of this President and his Administration to wreak havoc on our most vulnerable citizens, those doubts were erased on Monday. With the release of his proposed budget for FY19, President Trump made clear his utter disdain for the poorest among us.
The Trump budget proposes slashing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, by $17 billion in 2019, a 22 percent cut over last year’s program. So people will go without food. It would cut $6.8 billion from Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—this includes nearly $1 billion from the federal government’s Section 8 housing voucher program, which could result in the termination of critical housing assistance to more than 250,000 low income families. So people will lose their homes. And at a time when NYCHA is facing an estimated $25 billion backlog in capital improvements, the President’s budget would eliminate entirely the federal government’s fund for public capital repairs. So people will go without heat, hot water, elevators and the like.
Further, the proposed budget would impose rent hikes on the city’s public and subsidized housing residents. Impacted households would see a 17 percent increase in rent, or an average of $890 annually, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In our 2017 Unheard Third survey, we found that 47 percent of low-income public housing residents and 58 percent of low income subsidized housing residents would not be able to afford a $300 annual increase in rent, much less than what the President’s budget is currently proposing. So more people will become homeless.
Turning to health care, the President is calling for cutting Medicaid and Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years and imposing new per-person caps on how much care Medicaid enrollees can receive. He also wants to turn a portion of Medicaid—the essential safety-net health insurance program for the poor and elderly—into a block grant that states could effectively manipulate, by tightening eligibility requirements and instituting work requirements. So people will go without health care.
That this President is taking a wrecking ball to safety-net programs after famously promising on the campaign trail to protect and save Social Security and Medicaid is hardly surprising. We knew it was a lie. But what is most alarming is that the President is proposing all of this while adding more than $7 trillion to the national debt, and after pushing through a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that will mostly benefit corporations and his wealthy friends at the expense of the average American. Another pernicious twist is that by drastically curtailing the federal deductibility of state and local taxes, the federal government is making it that much harder for the states to raise the revenues to offset these spiteful cuts.
With this budget Trump has discarded any pretense of being a President for all Americans. Instead, his priorities appear to be focused on enriching those who are already very well off, and signaling to everyone else—from the working mother raising children alone in a NYCHA apartment to the elderly couple relying on food stamps—`you’re on your own.’ Elections have consequences.