“The President,” according to White House talking points on his speech to Congress tomorrow night, “will reach out to Americans living in the poorest and most vulnerable communities, and let them know that help is on the way.” Really?
While the White House was trumpeting President Trump’s outreach “to the poorest and most vulnerable communities,” the New York Times was reporting that under his forthcoming budget, “Social safety net programs, aside from the big entitlement programs for retirees [i.e., Social Security and Medicare], will be hit hard.”
Meanwhile, White House officials told reporters that the President will propose a hefty $54 billion increase in defense for fiscal year 2018 and pay for it by cutting non-defense discretionary programs, which have already faced several rounds of substantial cuts since 2010. Nearly one-fourth of non-defense discretionary spending funds programs for people with low or modest incomes — that is, the very people to which the White House talking points allude — including Head Start, child care, aid for poor school districts, job training, Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college, low-income rental assistance, and programs to combat homelessness, among others.
Moreover, White House officials have expressed support for converting Medicaid to a block grant — a structure under which states would get fixed amounts of money for Medicaid. With that structure, the program couldn’t automatically respond to rising need such as during a recession as it does today, and, if the history of other block grants is any guide, policymakers almost certainly would shrink Medicaid’s funding substantially over time.
Notwithstanding the talking points, the real message that President Trump will send to those in “the poorest and most vulnerable communities” is not that help is on the way. Instead, it’s that the President plans to offer proposals that would make the conditions in these communities, the lives of the people who live there, and the opportunities for their children to succeed considerably worse.