President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for FY 2018 is set to impact a lot of people negatively — including many people who voted to put him in office. The proposal has drawn criticism even from members of Trump’s own party.
The plan, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” calls for a significantly higher military budget, with a $54 billion increase in defense spending. The Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs are the only ones with increased budgets.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Fact Sheet released in April 2016, the United States spends significantly more than any other nation on military expenditures. In 2015 the U.S. spent $596 billion. This is more than the next seven nations — China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan — combined.
According to exit polls, the president’s victory can largely be attributed to rural America, 61 percent of which voted for Trump. However, initial analysis of his proposed budget suggests that this demographic will be hit hard as a result of cutting to certain programs. The budget proposes large cuts in everything from education to agriculture, notably programs that help low-income, disadvantaged and unemployed Americans.
During a White House press briefing Thursday Budget Director Mick Mulvaney raised eyebrows after telling reporters that free lunch at school and after school programs don’t really help children.
“Let’s talk about after school programs generally… they’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that… no demonstrable evidence that they are actually helping results, helping kids do better in school.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture is slated to lose 21 percent of its budget. The blueprint directly states the impact the Department has on Trump’s most loyal supporters: “USDA also works to ensure food safety, provide nutrition assistance, and support rural communities.”
According to the document, “The Budget request supports core Departmental and mission critical activities while streamlining, reducing, or eliminating duplicative, redundant, or lower priority programs where the Federal role competes with the private sector or other levels of government.”
However, the proposed cut to the Agriculture Department demonstrates Trump’s clear lack of understanding of his core voting base, according to Collin Peterson, a ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.
“Cuts to the water and wastewater loan program are wrongly portrayed as duplicative when they are the only ways for small rural communities to update their waste systems,” Peterson said. “County offices are already understaffed and further cuts would mean private organizations would be tasked with helping farmers navigate farm programs. Again, it’s a general lack of understanding of what really takes place in rural America.”
The budget promises to keep in tact “core” aspects of the department, but as experts in the industry have voiced concerns over whether the government knows just what those core aspects are, others call into question Trump’s understanding of the budget at all.
The New York Times writes:
“Mr. Trump himself gives every indication of having no idea what the federal government does; his vaguely budget-like document isn’t much more than a roughly scribbled list of numbers, with no clear picture of what those numbers would mean.”
Trump also proposed significant cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, totaling a 13.2 percent decrease from the previous year. This includes an unstated decrease in funding for rental assistance programs as well as eliminating entirely the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The Small Cities CDBG falls under this program and is specifically designed to help low- and moderate-income members of rural communities obtain “decent housing, a suitable living environment and economic opportunities.”
The budget will also eliminate funding for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing. Section 4 provides grants for Living Cities, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Enterprise Community Partners, Habitat for Humanity International (Habitat) and YouthBuild USA.
Trump’s rural supporters also share a large concern about their economic future, with 69 percent saying that “jobs in their community are hard to find,” according to Pew Research Center. And 1 in 3 people in rural areas already report living paycheck to paycheck.
According to the Center for American Progress, the wealthy would likely see tax breaks under the new budget, while rural communities will decline:
“Trump’s plan would leave out rural and small-town communities because many of their sorely needed infrastructure projects — such as rehabilitation of aging nontoll bridges and roads or their fraying water and sewage systems — would not generate sufficient revenue to attract the interest of investors. Thus, these crucial repair and maintenance projects are unlikely to take place under the Trump plan, leaving rural communities further behind. In addition, Trump’s newly released budget slashes nearly $2.6 billion in infrastructure investments, half a billion dollars of which goes to rural water and sewage improvements.”
Projects to build up rural communities would not only attract investors but could also create jobs for people in those areas — which would address a widespread concern among this demographic.
Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts, by Department/Agency
Department of Agriculture: $4.7 billion (21 percent)
Department of Commerce: $1.5 billion (16 percent)
Department of Education: $9 billion (13 percent)
Department of Energy: $1.7 billion (5.6 percent)
Department of Health and Human Services: $15.1 billion (17.9 percent)
Department of Housing and Urban Development: $6.2 billion (13.2 percent)
Department of the Interior: $1.5 billion (12 percent)
Department of Justice: $1.1 billion (3.8 percent)
Department of Labor: $2.5 billion (21 percent)
Department of State, USAID and Treasury International Programs: $10.1 billion (28 percent)
Department of Transportation: $2.4 billion (13 percent)
Department of the Treasury: $519 million (4.1 percent)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $2.6 billion (31 percent)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): $185 million (0.8 percent)
Small Business Administration: $43.2 million (5 percent)
Corps of Engineers: $1 billion (16.3 percent)
Trump’s Proposed Budget Increases, by Department
Department of Defense: $52 billion (10 percent)
Department of Homeland Security: $2.8 billion (6.8 percent)
Department of Veterans Affairs: $4.4 billion (6 percent)
2015 Military Expenditure Budgets for the Top 8 Highest Spending Nations (in Billions)
United States: $596
Saudi Arabia: $87.2
United Kingdom: $55.5