Trump’s Budget Slashes Opportunity

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

A few hundred billion cut here, a few hundred billion slashed there, and the Trump budget proposal released this week adds up to real crushed opportunity.

The spending plan slices a pound of flesh from everyone, well, everyone who isn’t a millionaire or billionaire. For the rich, it promises massive tax breaks.

There are cuts to worker safety programs, veterans’ programs, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, vocational training, public education, environmental protection, health research and more. So much more. The list is shockingly long.

Each incision is painful. But what’s worse is the collective result: the annihilation of opportunity. The rich can buy opportunity. The rest cannot. What was always special about America was its guarantee of opportunity to everyone. All who worked hard and pulled themselves up by their  bootstraps could earn their own picket-fenced home. This budget terminates the goal of opportunity for all. It declares that the people of the United States no longer will help provide boots to those who lost jobs because of NAFTA, the residents of economically depressed regions, the children of single mothers, the sufferers of chronic diseases, the victims of natural disasters. No bootstraps for them. Just for the rich who hire servants to pull the straps on their fancy $1,500 Gucci footwear.  

The minimum-wage servant class doesn’t have a prayer under this budget. Trump condemns them to a perpetual prison of poverty. His budget denies them, and even their children, the chance to rise. It treats no better the precarious middle class and workers whose jobs are threatened by imports. It even screws veterans.

Achieving the American Dream depends on a good education, and the Trump budget would extinguish that possibility for tens of millions. The breadth and depth of the cuts to public education are gobsmacking. They’ll enable billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to use the money instead to subsidize private school tuition for the Gucci class.

While DeVos helps the already-rich attend pricey private schools, she and Trump would cut $345.9 billion from public education, training, employment and social services. That includes $71.5 billion from public elementary, secondary and vocational education. They’d take $11.4  billion from education for disadvantaged children and $13.9 billion from special-needs children.

They’d withdraw $183.3 billion from higher education including $33 billion from financial assistance. They say to kids who failed to be born to wealthy parents – too bad for you, no low-interest student loans for brilliant poor students and far fewer grants for the talented who could cure cancer if only they could afford college tuition.  

Many of these aspiring students can’t turn to their parents for help because they’ve lost jobs as manufacturers like Rexnord and Carrier closed American factories and shipped jobs to Mexico or China. Trump and DeVos would also decimate help for the parents to get back on their feet, eliminating $25.2 billion for training and employment.

If the parents’ unemployment insurance runs out as they search for new jobs and their cars are repossessed, mass transit may not be an option for commuting to new positions. Trump would cut it by $41.6 billion.

If a furloughed worker in North Dakota or Minnesota or Pennsylvania can’t afford to pay the heating bill, Trump’s government would no longer help. He would eliminate entirely the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, ending aid that can mean the difference between life and freezing to death for 6 million vulnerable Americans.

If laid-off workers ultimately also lose their homes to foreclosure, Trump is unsympathetic. He’d cut $77.2 billion from housing assistance. His advice: take your bootless feet and live in the street.

And don’t expect any government cheese once there. Trump would carve $193.6 billion out of food stamps. He doesn’t even spare infants, with an $11.1 billion smack to the program that feeds pregnant women and their babies. School kids can’t expect food either. Trump and DeVos say too bad for them if they can’t hear their teachers over their growling stomachs. Trump takes nearly 21 percent away from the Agriculture Department, which subsidizes school lunches for low-income kids.

Trump also stiffs families that lose their health insurance because they can’t afford COBRA premiums after a job loss or can’t find new employment before their COBRA eligibility expires. Trump slashes $627 billion from Medicaid, and that’s on top of draconian cuts in his so-called health plan that would cost 14 million Americans their insurance coverage next year and 23 million over 10 years. Trump says: no health care for the down and out.  

For the residents of West Virginia glens with closed coal mines, and the citizens of shuttered mill towns in Western Pennsylvania and the in habitants of Michigan municipalities struck down by offshored auto manufacturing jobs, Trump would purge $41.3 billion from the community development program that provides both jobs and otherwise unaffordable crucial municipal improvements.

The unemployed or under-employed who hoped for jobs in Trump’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure program receive no reprieve in this proposed spending plan. It removes $97.2 billion from airports, $123.4 billion from ground transportation and $16.3 billion from water transportation projects.

Trump is mulling sending thousands of new troops to Afghanistan, and for some young people with few options, that service is attractive because it comes with good medical and education benefits. But the Trump budget diminishes that chance at success as well, ripping $154.1 billion from veterans’ services including $94.4 billion from hospital and medical care and $511 million from veterans’ education and training. 

For young people who thought the AmeriCorps program might be an employment substitute for the military, no luck. Trump’s spending plan abolishes that service program.

Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget redefines America.  No longer the land of opportunity, it would be a place of welfare for the rich in the form of million-dollar tax breaks and subsidies for exclusive private schools. For the rest, hope would be extinguished. For them, Trump’s budget would convert America the beautiful into America the hellish hole. 

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Photo by Getty Images

Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation and the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the executive committee for IndustriALL Global Labor federation and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger

Posted In: From the USW International President

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