The president’s approval ratings are at an historically-low 39 percent according to the latest polls. Yet, despite this lack of popularity with the American people, the Trump Administration has delivered a budget to Congress that slashes many longstanding programs that are wildly popular across the country and will significantly reduce meaningful services provided to consumers.
Meals on Wheels, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, and critical after-school programs are all under attack. Under the Trump budget, 19 programs would be totally eliminated, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Public Broadcasting Corporation. Yes, no more “Muppets” or “Masterpiece Theater.”
Much of the discretionary spending being cut actually supports important and necessary programs like housing and child care assistance for low- and moderate-income families, protections for workers and consumers, education, basic research, and job training. These are budget items that invest in the future of America.
Additionally, the Trump budget is proposing to completely gut the Labor Department’s programs to eliminate child and forced labor worldwide – something that we at the National Consumers League (NCL) have been fighting to eradicate since our founding in 1899. NCL’s Child Labor Coalition was created in 1989 to stamp out the worst forms of child labor and protect teen workers from workplace hazards. And although President Trump believes that this is unnecessary spending, there has been a one-third reduction in global child labor rates over the past 20 years, while the U.S. has been the biggest funder of child labor elimination programs worldwide.
Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, defended the cuts at a White House briefing, calling the programs “not well run” and saying that they “don’t do any good.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would also be slashed by 31 percent. Mulvaney says about funding for climate change, “We’re not spending money on that anymore,” and calls the EPA’s efforts to reduce global warming a “waste of money.” Military spending would increase by $54 billion. No concern about fraud and waste there apparently.
And consider this…the EPA provides emergency assistance to local communities many times during the year. In Toledo, tests showed the presence of a dangerous chemical in the city’s water that causes liver cancer. In Corpus Christi, chemicals from asbestos plant leaked into the water. A fire in Bridgewater, Connecticut caused a chemical spill requiring the EPA’s help. In each of these cases, the agency’s expertise and resources were critical to addressing these dire threats to the public’s health. These local communities have neither the money nor the scientific expertise to deal with the problem.
We have so many excellent scientists, doctors, lawyers, statisticians, and researchers at our federal agencies. These professionals have devoted their careers to protecting the public. There’s no replacing their training or expertise if we cut them from the budget.
Thankfully, the president’s budget is only a proposal, and one that has to be acted on by Congress. But if even some of what is proposed gets passed, the consequences for consumers and workers will be catastrophic. The Labor Department is to be cut by 21 percent and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 18 percent. That latter move would be in direct conflict with the funding increases passed overwhelmingly last Congress for NIH in the 21st Century Cures bill; Congress wants NIH helping to develop cures for diseases.
The public has expectations that our government will take care of its citizens – like the Department of Health and Human Services will provide Social Security and Medicare, that the EPA will come to the rescue of local communities, that our interstates, roads, and bridges will receive federal subsidies. It’s clear that the Trump Administration’s budget would have profoundly negative effects on millions of Americans across the country and would hit families that are already struggling the hardest.