Commentary Law and Policy

Why Trump’s Upcoming Budget Spells Bad News for Women and Families

Melissa Boteach

This budget will likely be a multi-pronged attack on their economic security, health, and safety.

Next week, the Trump administration is expected to unveil its budget priorities for the next fiscal year.

Given President Trump’s tendency to brag about all he’s doing for women, he’ll likely boast that his budget will be great for women. The greatest, most tremendous budget of all time for women!

But set aside the rhetoric, and this budget will likely be a multi-pronged attack on women and families’ economic security, health, and safety.

The detailed numbers of the budget will come out on March 18, but next week’s outline will reveal key themes about where the Trump administration’s priorities truly lie (spoiler alert: not with women and families).

Here are three things to watch for:

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1) Budget Shell Game: It has been widely reported that Trump’s FY2020 budget will increase defense spending while declining to raise the draconian budget cap imposed on the part of the budget that funds domestic priorities, such as food inspections, cancer research, child care, the Head Start program, and job training.

Americans just experienced firsthand the chaos that ensues when key government benefits and services are cut off during the government shutdown. Trump’s preferred approach, according to news reports of what we can expect in his budget, would continue starving those key functions of the federal government.

Analysts estimate that, when taking into account inflation and population growth, Trump’s anticipated budget cap on federal spending in non-defense areas could amount to a 11 percent cut in funding, severely squeezing resources for agencies that write Social Security checks, provide nutritional benefits for infants, support survivors of intimate partner violence, and enforce worker protections.

In response to critics, Trump will likely crow about one or two domestic policy areas where he claims to be making investments, such as child care. Don’t buy it. Under the current cap, an increase in any one program would require even more draconian cuts to other resources the same families rely on.

The cap imposes harsh limits on spending enacted in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Failure to remove it shrinks the overall pie of discretionary spending, forcing cuts to key investments.

So unless that cap is removed, take any proposed increase in domestic spending with a Mar-a-Lago sized grain of salt.

2) Deep Cuts to Health Care and Nutrition Will Pay for Tax Cuts for Millionaires and Corporations: The Trump administration expressed no qualms about adding $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit for a tax bill that primarily benefited wealthy individuals and large corporations. But now that Trump is laying out next year’s budget, it appears deficits are suddenly a big concern—especially when it comes to investing in working families.

If past is prologue, nearly $1 trillion of cuts in the Trump budget will come from Medicaid (the health-care program serving seniors, people with disabilities, and children) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s bedrock anti-hunger program. Both programs disproportionately help women and children: Women make up the majority of adult Medicaid enrollees, and two-thirds of SNAP benefits go to families with children.

On the discretionary side, we can expect deep cuts to affordable housing, energy assistance for low-income families, after-school programs for kids, and programs addressing domestic violence.

3) New Reams of Red Tape—But Only for People Struggling to Make Ends Meet: The Trump administration has railed against basic safeguards—including environmental protections, worker safety, and health standards—as red tape that stifles growth. I don’t know about you, but I’m OK with a little red tape if it means that I can breathe clean air and that my food doesn’t have E. coli.

When it comes to low-income women and families, however, the Trump budget has no qualms about proposing a maze of paperwork requirements that add barriers for people trying to get basic help when times are tough. Expect his budget to enshrine policies he has already announced, such as taking away health insurance and nutrition assistance from people who cannot meet a stringent work reporting requirements.

Not only is it illogical, there’s no evidence taking away food, health care, or housing helps struggling families find decent work. Such proposals actually kick workers in low-wage jobs when they are down. If a worker faces unstable schedules or retaliation for reporting sexual harassment in the form of cut hours, she now would have to worry about becoming homeless, hungry, or uninsured, on top of trying to find a new job.

In reviewing the Trump administration’s budget, read any mention of “work requirements” as code for cuts to the programs designed to help women and families scrape by.

Trump campaigned on behalf of the “forgotten man and woman,” and since taking office has repeatedly claimed that his policies are good for women and families. But if he were to truly get his way and see his budget fully implemented, women and families will more likely be paying for tax cuts for millionaires and corporations than seeing any positive benefits.

***

When Monday’s budget hits the press, just look at his priorities and you’ll see the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.

If Trump were serious about helping women and families, you’d see a budget that focuses on policies to raise wages, expand high-quality and affordable child care, and ensure families can access basics like housing, health care, and nutrition.

Hurting women, children, and families is not how we make America great.

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