Trump budget cuts trillions from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
Ready to cut: President Donald Trump holds a pair of golden scissors during an event at the White House, Dec. 14, 2017. Trump's latest budget for 2021 proposes cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. | Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON—Congressional Democrats, progressive groups, and defenders of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid all blasted President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Two top government worker unions chimed, in, too, slamming Trump for proposing only a 1% raise for calendar 2021, far below inflation and below this year’s 3.1%, which Trump had resisted. Meanwhile, Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten blasted Trump’s plans to slash programs that help kids—and their parents.

Trump’s $4.8 trillion spending plan, including a $1 trillion deficit, proposes an 8% hike, to $780 billion, in spending for the military and cuts just about everywhere else: Food stamps, Social Security ($30 billion drop in disability benefits spending), Medicaid ($700 billion-$1 trillion slashed over 10 years), and Medicare.

One estimate put Trump’s Medicare cut at $478 billion over a decade, while another, from former Democratic White House aide Keith Boykin, topped $850 billion. The Medicaid cuts would both throw people out of the program and cut the payments the federal government makes to states for those who remain.

Reiterating a longtime GOP goal, Trump wants to make those Medicaid payments into block grants and cap them. States can then use—or not use—as they please. Block grants would let Republican-run states cut benefits even more.

Trump vowed in his State of the Union address the previous week he would not cut Medicare or Social Security but was silent about Medicaid, which aids the poor and the disabled. The month before, in Switzerland, he advocated cutting all three. His budget does just that.

Other Trump cuts would hit the Labor Department (-11%), the Environmental Protection Agency (-26.5%), federal education aid (-8%), and a wide range of other domestic programs, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and federal student loans. Trump even wants to cut the Centers for Disease Control by 9%, just days after that agency told lawmakers it needs more money to help battle the coronavirus.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., had the sharpest words for Trump’s $4.8 trillion spending plan—and he posted them on his Senate website, not through his presidential campaign. “Immoral,” was the kindest comment he had about what is an intensely political document—and one that is likely dead on arrival in Congress.

“The Trump budget is an immoral document. It is a budget that takes our collective resources and hands them to the wealthiest families and largest corporations in this country and ignores the needs of the most vulnerable among us,” said Sanders.

“The Trump budget for 2021 is a budget of, by, and for the 1%,” said Sanders. “It reflects profoundly unethical priorities and shows the president is—and it gives me no great pleasure to say this—a liar.”

“What kind of unbelievable moral framework allowed this White House to propose $182 billion in cuts to nutrition assistance from needy families when nearly one in seven households with children are food insecure?” the Vermonter added.

As top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders could have some say on what type of budget lawmakers eventually produce—one that would largely ignore Trump’s spending blueprint, if, that is, lawmakers can get their act together and produce a spending plan of their own.

Groups defending women, children, and the elderly also panned Trump’s plan.

“This budget foreshadows the broader attack on seniors’ earned benefits that President Trump hinted at in a recent interview when he said that cutting ‘entitlements’ is ‘the easiest of all things.’ Our most vulnerable citizens should not be expected to pay for policies that favor the wealthy and big corporations, most notably the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017,” said Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

His group pointed out that Trump would not only cut Medicare and Social Security, which the elderly depend upon for income and health care payments but would—again—eliminate heating aid for low-income people, including low-income elderly.

“One would hope that in an election year when politicians like to put forward their most popular ideas, the President would understand the benefits of protecting our most cherished income and health security programs. It’s time he delivers what the American people have been asking for, as indicated by poll after poll, and not the dangerous proposals of his fiscal ax-men,” Richtman said.

“The budget is a statement of values and once again the president is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security, and well-being of hard-working American families,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., added.

“Year after year, President Trump’s budgets have sought to inflict devastating cuts to critical lifelines that millions of Americans rely on. Less than a week after promising to protect families’ health care in his State of the Union address, the president is now brazenly inflicting savage multi-billion-dollar cuts to Medicare and Medicaid—at the same time he is fighting in federal court to destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions and dismantle every other protection and benefit of the Affordable Care Act.

“Americans’ quality, affordable health care will never be safe with President Trump. The American people sent a Democratic House majority to Washington to fight for the people to lower their health care costs, and that is exactly what we will continue to do.”

“This budget proposal tells the American people everything they need to know about President Trump’s priorities, because the things that matter most to Americans—like providing their families a path to a better life, economic security, and a voice in democracy—are on the chopping block,” AFT’s Weingarten said.

After listing Trump’s cuts to health care, Social Security, housing, higher education, worker training, his plan to block grant public education money, and his slashes at food stamps, she asked: “And for what?”

“Further tax cuts for the wealthy, money”—$2 billion—“for Trump’s border wall, and a $5 billion voucher scheme to funnel taxpayer money out of public schools and into private schools. Trump’s values aren’t the people’s values.”

President Donald Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 arrives at the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 10. | J. Scott Applewhite / AP

As workers’ wages are being squeezed, “this budget cuts every social safety net program that would help…reflecting the president’s political war on the federal safety net.”

Treasury Employees President Tony Reardon said Trump is not only offering the nation’s two million federal workers only a 1% raise, he’s taking it away with the other hand by forcing them to contribute 1% more of their pay for their pensions, on top of prior hikes to help close past federal red ink. Trump also wants to freeze pension payments and eliminate cost-of-living hikes, he said. Both NTEU and the Government Employees are lobbying lawmakers for a 3.5% hike in 2020, with no cuts to COLAs.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., was one critic who explicitly linked Trump’s domestic budget cuts to the 2017 Trump-GOP tax cut for the rich and corporations—a tax cut which helped blow the red ink hole in Trump’s budget blueprint.

“This budget makes the president’s priorities clear: The wealthiest Americans come first ahead of working Americans who are trying to get by and get ahead,” Hoyer said. “It is another manifestation of his broken promises to the American people to improve their health care, safeguard Medicare, and eliminate the national debt.”

Trump and his GOP allies promised the tax cuts would not cause higher deficits. The Republicans said benefits would “trickle down” to workers, eventually, Hoyer said. “This budget makes no mention of them, a tacit acknowledgment this president is now trying to run away from their dismal consequences,” he said.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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