Cut to the bone
Trump budget an atrocity from town to country
Dennis Sanders
volume 38
issue 4
August 2017

Left: Home health aide helps an elderly client getup and out of bed. Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Right: Money for programs like free breakfasts for low-income students are on the chopping block. Photo: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Donald Trump unveiled his full 2018 budget proposal in May, making his goals crystal clear. Extreme capitalism and the dismantling of public programs.

He wants to end most help to the poor, people of color, rural communities and workers. He demands elimination of all funding to organizations that provide abortions, which would block many women’s access to medical care. He would decimate spending for education, the environment, social services, transportation and infrastructure.

While the budget will be amended by Congress, the Republican majority loves it, especially healthcare cuts for the poor and tax cuts for the rich. Relying on Democrats is no answer; they offer no serious alternative. Fact is, the programs that Trump would decimate have been starved or under attack for decades as the supposed cure to economic malaise.

The only thing that can make a real difference is all those impacted banding together into a united front. Continued mass pressure is the answer.

Depriving working people. The budget calls for an average of $4.9 trillion in outlays per year over the next 10 years, about the same as in other years. The big difference is where the money would be spent. That is in huge increases for the military and border enforcement, and steep cutbacks for human beings.

There are two parts of the budget: “mandatory” spending, which is driven by existing laws and often has its own funding, and “discretionary” spending, determined by yearly appropriations. Roughly 73 percent is mandatory and 27 percent discretionary.

Mandatory spending includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, agricultural subsidies, veterans benefits and interest on the debt. Trump proposes deep reductions to Medicaid ($800 billion) and Social Security Disability Insurance ($64 billion) over 10 years.

Discretionary spending includes the military, border control, and many social services. Trump would increase spending on the military by 9 percent to $639 billion, and the Department of Homeland Security by 7 percent to $44 billion.

One thing that highlights his priorities is his plan for the Department of Education. He wants $10 billion in reductions to teacher training, after-school and summer programs, aid for first generation and low-income students, and work-study help to college students. He would increase school “choice” programs like charter schools and aid to private schools by $1.4 billion.

Trump takes a blow torch to almost everything else on the discretionary side, hitting anti-poverty programs, low income housing and nutritional aid, environmental protection and mass-transit. All told, Trump would slash $54 billion from discretionary programs, eliminating or defunding 20 agencies and departments and cutting thousands of federal jobs.

Trump claims there will be a decline in the budget deficit. He assumes 5 percent annual growth in the Gross Domestic Product. The economy would supposedly be wildly stimulated by deep tax cuts for the top 1 percent, amounting to $9.5 trillion over 10 years. Such a shift of wealth away from workers has always led to recessions. And the U.S. hasn’t had a string of 5 percent growth since World War II. But, he wants us to drink the Kool-Aid!

Hits to infrastructure and rural areas. One reason behind Trump’s victory was support from rural communities. He was masterful in playing to their plight, from the decline of infrastructure to the loss of jobs in coal and other rural industries.

But the budget shows his true colors. It would slash a broad array of rural development programs and farm supports.

A recent study found that one-third of people in rural communities live paycheck to paycheck, significantly more than in cities. Reductions to many government programs would make an already precarious situation worse. An example is the proposed scraping of the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which provides subsidies for heating oil during frigid New England winters, mostly in rural areas.

Medicaid is another lifeline in the countryside. Also planned, decreased subsidies to renewable energy, which have stimulated growth of solar and wind farms. These are almost exclusively in rural areas, generating jobs and royalties for farmers.

During the campaign, Trump bloviated often on the need to rebuild America’s infrastructure.

His budget promised a 10-year, $1 trillion program. Wow! He must really care about the country’s crumbling roads, bridges, energy, and water and sewer systems, right? Not so much. He proposes funding the wealthy with $200 billion of “incentives” to private sector investment. Tax payers would ensure that private investors have a no risk/all reward joy ride when they put their money in anything to do with infrastructure.

And Trump has called catastrophes like the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, “infrastructure improvements,” so that’s what he means by the term.

Trump proposes to cut $255 billion of actual infrastructure spending, including grants for highway renovation, water facilities on native lands, rural airports, and the already starved Amtrak.

It’s a staggering deceit to claim that private sector handouts, offset by deep cuts in real funding, magically become a $1 trillion program. Particularly when the real need is estimated at $4.6 trillion.

Resistance is growing. What really matters between now and the September vote is how effectively the massive opposition to this plan is turned into effective organizing.

Plenty has been supplied by opponents of the drastic cuts to Medicaid that the Senate announced just before press time. Sustaining and extending that fight is essential.

An example of what can be done is the United Front for Survival, organized in 1973 in Seattle to fight Nixon’s attacks on social and health services. FSP founder Clara Fraser and her anti-poverty program co-workers organized a broad and democratic united front. They were joined by program recipients, welfare mothers, feminists, antiwar activists, Black community firebrands, anarchists and other radicals. They organized a mass march and rally that was able to stave off some cuts and signaled a collective fighting spirit.

Trump’s vast assault cries out for just such a response — a broad, democratic and inclusive united front, ready to fight for the long haul. Labor needs to take an energetic role. Let’s fight the cutbacks and demand a massive, publicly funded job program!

Send feedback to

Also see: Attack on Medicaid ignites resistance