On May 23, President Donald Trump released his vision for the fiscal year 2018 federal budget titled, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” which called for deep cuts to Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), student loan assistance, and anti-poverty programs geared toward working- and middle-class Americans while providing gargantuan tax cuts for top income earners and increasing military spending. As details of the budget began to surface in the lead up to the announcement, Media Matters identified some of the best take downs from journalists and experts hammering the proposal for its “ruthless” cuts.
White House budget proposed major cuts to social safety net and a tax cut for top earners
Trump’s budget to slash Medicaid, children’s health insurance, food stamps, medical research, disease prevention funding, disability insurance, college financial aide, Planned Parenthood, and public assistance. On May 23, the White House released a federal budget proposal named “A New Foundation for American Greatness” that proposed tax reductions for top earners paid in part by cuts to numerous public assistance programs. President Donald Trump’s budget proposal included cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as “food stamps”), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicaid. The plan would eliminate federal student loan forgiveness programs for public service employees and would end all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. It would also include cuts to disease prevention programs and restricted research funding for cancer, heart conditions, and diabetes. [The New York Times, 05/22/17, 05/22/17; The Washington Post, 05/22/17, 05/23/17]
Some media outlets failed to notice Trump’s cuts to Social Security would break his word to “save Social Security without any cuts.” In a May 22 article in the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik scolded fellow journalists who fell for Trump’s spin that cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are not cuts to Social Security. Hiltzik reminded journalists that disability insurance is a core function of Social Security that is financed through the program’s payroll taxes in the same way retirement benefits are. On May 23, Media Matters identified the reporters at The Washington Post, HuffPost, Axios, and even The New York Times who made the mistake of falling for Trump’s misdirection. [Los Angeles Times, 5/22/17; Media Matters, 5/23/17]
Some journalists and policy experts blasted Trump’s cuts to vital programs
ThinkProgress: Trump’s “ruthless” cuts to disability insurance would set back those with disabilities by “50 years or more.” On May 23, ThinkProgress slammed Trump for his proposal to cut SSDI and for breaking his pledge to “keep Social Security intact.” Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress (CAP) told ThinkProgress that people receiving SSDI are just “scraping by” on those benefits and that these draconian cuts would mean “setting the clock back 50 years or more” for the rights of those with disabilities. [ThinkProgress, 5/23/17]
Wash. Post: Congress won’t “touch Trump’s budget with a 10-foot pole.” On May 23, before the president’s budget had been officially released, The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips reported “a significant number of Republicans” and nearly all congressional Democrats were opposed to Trump’s extreme cuts to the social safety net. Phillips described Trump’s toxic budget as so severe it was “a no-win situation” for the GOP:
It was a given that Democrats would loathe President Trump's suggestion, which the White House delivered to Congress on Tuesday, for how Congress should fund the government next year.
But a significant number of Republicans can't get behind Trump's budget, some for the same reason. While they may appreciate the tax cuts and billions in extra military spending, a number of Republicans fear that Trump's budget goes too far in pulling the rug out from under people in their districts and states — especially for programs where their potential opponents can make the easy political case that they were heartlessly cut.
To some degree, all presidents' budgets are political headaches for that president's party. But Trump's budget is notable for just how much of a no-win situation it puts Republicans in -- moderates and conservatives alike. [The Washington Post, 5/23/17]
HuffPost: Trump’s paid parental leave provision is “a cruel joke” after he proposed “gruesome” cuts to the social safety net. On May 23, ThinkProgress Economic Editor Bryce Covert noted that experts believe that “literally every aspect” of Trump’s parental leave plan “falls short,” particularly its miserly offer of only six weeks of paid maternity leave for the birth mother alone. HuffPost reporter Emily Peck was even more blunt, hitting Trump for including a mere $19 billion in paid parental leave as “a cruel joke,” since his budget would cut $1.4 trillion in Medicaid and CHIP funding in addition to cuts to SNAP. Peck added, “What good is the paid leave if you can’t afford to feed yourself”:
This should be a welcome, landmark development for women in the U.S., the only developed country that doesn’t require some kind of paid time off for new mothers.
Instead, it amounts to nothing more than a cruel joke in a budget that proposes gruesome reductions to social programs over the next decade. The plan includes a breathtaking overall cut of $1.4 trillion to Medicaid (a figure that presumes repeal of Obamacare) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It also calls for a $193 billion slice out of food stamps and $272 billion in cuts to other programs that serve the poor.
The budget seeks $19 billion for paid parental leave over 10 years.
What good is the paid leave if you can’t afford to feed yourself, take your baby to the doctor, pay your hospital bills, or get access to quality pre- or post-natal care? [HuffPost, 5/23/17; ThinkProgress, 5/23/17]
Vox: Trump’s cuts to Social Security “breaks a crucial campaign promise.” On May 22, Vox correspondent Dylan Matthews slammed Trump’s budget for breaking his campaign pledge to not cut Social Security, citing tweets and radio interviews in which Trump pledged to “save Social Security without any cuts.” Matthews noted the cuts were “guaranteed to worsen hardship among people with disabilities” and clearly broke “a crucial campaign promise.” [Vox, 5/22/17]
Slate: Trump’s budget is a “repugnant grab bag of spending cuts.” Slate correspondent Jordan Weissmann slammed Trump’s budget as “repugnant” on May 22 for giving Republicans in Congress the opportunity “to go wild butchering essential pieces of the safety net in order to fund extraordinary tax cuts for the wealthy and increased defense spending.” Weissmann also caught on that Trump neglected to say during the campaign that his promise to not cut Social Security wouldn’t include SSDI. [Slate, 5/22/17]
Quartz: Trump’s budget designed to leave out “about half of America.” On May 22, Quartz correspondent Heather Timmons summarized Trump’s budget plan as an attack on programs “that directly impact low and mid-income Americans,” writing that it is “a big departure from the pro-working class image” that the president tried to portray. Timmons concluded that the budget was designed for only those who paid direct federal income taxes, while leaving out the 78 million low-income households that earn too little income to be net contributors to federal income taxes:
The budget favors wealthier Americans over less-wealthy ones deliberately, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), told reporters at a press conference. It was written for the people who pay federal income taxes, not the recipients of government spending, he said.
Practically speaking, that means this budget is written for about half of America. Just 55% of Americans paid direct federal income tax in 2015—the remaining 78 million households made too little money to qualify, or were eligible for tax breaks that ultimately provided them with refunds from the IRS. However, nearly everyone in the US pays federal taxes in other ways, through things like gasoline taxes and the payroll tax, and many of those 78 million households pay state or local taxes.
MSNBC highlighted the human cost of Trump’s budget cuts. On the May 22 edition of MSNBC Live, host Chris Jansing discussed the human toll of Trump’s budget with NBC News senior editor Beth Fouhy and New York Times national reporter Yamiche Alcindor. MSNBC Live aired a portion of an interview of a mother of a child with cerebral palsy who told Fouhy that Trump’s cuts to care for her child would bankrupt her. Alcindor discussed a report she co-authored in the Times about how the cuts Trump has been proposing directly harm the working-class Americans promised to protect. [Media Matters, 5/22/17; The New York Times, 5/11/17]