Six Reasons the President’s FY 2019 Budget Widens the Income Inequality Gap

Tralonne Shorter
March 9, 2018

On February 12, 2018, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget blueprint to Congress. This timing is consistent with the traditional release of the President’s budget, but in recent years the budget process has stalled down the road when Congress must agree on spending levels and appropriations bills. To illustrate: when President Trump’s FY 2019 budget plan was submitted in February, we were well into FY 2018 which began October 1 2017, and we should have had a functioning year-long budget firmly in place. Instead, because of months of delays, this was just days after Congress approved the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that lifts both defense and nondefense spending caps and will finally put the FY 2018 federal budget in place slated for approval by March 23, 2018. President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal also comes on the heels of Congress’ recent passage of the largest tax reform law since 1986—which raised the deficit by $1.5 million to provide permanent tax breaks for the super wealthy.

The President’s FY 2019 budget calls for considerable defense spending, amounting to $716 billion, while reducing spending for non-defense programs by at least $57 billion below the bipartisan spending caps agreement that Congress just approved. Subsequently, starting in FY 2020, the President proposes roughly $3 trillion in spending cuts (disguised as deficit reduction) over 10 years to entitlement programs that support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and Medicaid, among other critical programs people rely on.

Yet again, the President fails to prioritize children, working families, people with disabilities and those simply in need of some help during a difficult time.  If enacted, this budget would exacerbate poverty by placing the burden on the most vulnerable among us while handing out tax breaks to the ultra-rich. The President’s budget proposal is morally deficient and NETWORK Lobby will endeavor to ensure that it’s not passed by Congress as written.

Here are six things every social justice advocate should know about President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Blueprint:

  1. Proposes massive cuts to Safety Net programs. Despite promises made by Congressional Republican leadership not to attack entitlement programs, deep cuts over the next decade are slated for CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.  The most significant cut is to Medicaid, which would total $1.4 trillion over 10 years and be converted into a block grant with a per capita cap.  Another concern is funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the Trump budget proposes a $214 billion reduction over 10 years, including a $17 billion cut in FY 2019. This program nourishes more than 42 million people, including 20 million children, 5 million seniors, and 4 million adults with disabilities in our nation.
  2. Underfunds the 2020 Decennial Census. The next decennial census will take place on April 1, 2020. Despite the Trump Administration adjusted request submitted in FY 2018 for $344 million in increased investments in the decennial census, funding lags behind what is needed to ensure a fair, accurate, and modern census.  Furthermore, delayed appropriations have led to the cancellation of two critical tests in South Dakota and Puerto Rico−the only Spanish-based test.  While the Secretary of Commerce has expressed serious concerns about the efficacy of the 2020 census, the President requests $3.015 billion in FY 2019–which is inadequate to support the volume of work needed for completion by census day. Outstanding issues include preparation for address canvassing, marketing and outreach, and final end-to-end testing which has been scaled back from three locations to only one.  NETWORK requests $3.928 billion for the decennial census activities.
  3. Increases funding to deport and separate immigrant families. President Trump’s budget requests $782 million to hire an additional 750 Border Patrol agents and 2,000 ICE officers and agents. The budget also provides $2.7 billion to fund 52,000 detention beds. Despite frankly impossible campaign promises to make Mexico pay for a border wall, the President’s budget includes a request for $1.6 billion in FY 2019 on top of the $18 billion requested in FY 2018 for the construction a border wall along the southern border.
  4. Eliminates Vital Affordable Housing and Community Development Programs. The President’s budget proposes eliminating the Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) program ($3 billion), the Choice Neighborhoods program ($138 million), and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program ($950 million). Conversely, the budget includes $2 billion in federal rental assistance programs, including funding to restore 200,000 housing vouchers, sustaining the current level of 2.2 million vouchers that protect elderly and disabled households from rent increases.
  5. Offsets 6-Week Paid Family Leave Proposal Using State Unemployment Insurance Structure. In his budget, President Trump resubmitted a proposal championed last year by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, that would provide workers six weeks of paid family. The budget request includes $700 million in start-up costs for states to assist with developing the infrastructure to establish state-based paid leave programs. The budget pays for this proposal by using Unemployment Insurance as the baseline giving states autonomy for implementation. While most working families don’t currently benefit from paid family and medical leave, many states do not have sufficient reserve funds to support this significant financial obligation without raising taxes.
  6. Imposes Work Requirements for Critical Programs. The President’s budget is callously based on the assumption that there are too many “able-bodied” beneficiaries receiving federal and state-level assistance across 80 different programs. Consequently, President Trump proposes incentives for states to expand work requirements for able-bodied parents with children over age 6, and make it a condition to receive food stamps, Medicaid and public housing assistance. Some states have already imposed stricter work requirements that include no food stamps for those who own a vehicle valued more than $20,000 and require drug testing to qualify for public housing. These requirements are harmful and punitive for families and undermine the purpose of these programs, to assist those who need it the most.