Trump’s Budget Is a $292 Billion Attack on Poor Americans

It’ll never pass, but it shows how committed the president is to slashing the social safety net.

Alex Brandon/AP

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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would take an axe to the social safety net, making huge cuts to cash and food benefits for low-income Americans.

The White House released its proposal for the 2021 budget on Monday. It is not expected to become law: The Democratic-controlled House is certain to vote against it. But the document shows just how committed the president is to slashing benefits for the poor.

Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget calls for steep cuts to welfare programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the biggest cash assistance program. 

The proposal calls for slashing SNAP funding by $182 billion over the next 10 years, a sharp reduction from the $58 billion the government spent on SNAP in 2019. Partly, those savings would come from significantly tightening eligibility requirements for SNAP. Currently, able-bodied SNAP recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 can receive food stamps for three months at a time and must prove that they are working at least 20 hours a week. The Trump budget calls for extending the work requirement rule to people up to the age of 65. 

Initially, states with high unemployment rates were allowed to apply for waivers that would exempt recipients from the three-month limit. But beginning April 1, a new federal rule makes acquiring those waivers much more difficult. The rule is expected to remove 700,000 people from the food stamp rolls. 

Other welfare programs don’t fare much better in Trump’s budget proposal. It would cut $15 billion from TANF over the next decade. The cash assistance program currently grants $16.5 billion annually, a level advocates say is insufficient to meet the needs of poor families because it has not increased since 1996.

The total cuts to welfare programs for the next decade come out to $292 billion. While the budget slashes countless programs that help the poor, it would increase military spending.

Congressional Democrats have already slammed the president’s proposal. “Trump’s immoral budget is full of reckless and cruel cuts to health care, education, housing, basic food assistance and more,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tweeted on Monday. “Congress must and will reject it.”

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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