Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump Gets Out The Budget Chainsaw

As has long been rumored Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget is a fiscal bloodbath that will all but dismantle the country's social safety net with a staggering $1.7 trillion in spending cuts over ten years, nearly half of that to Medicaid alone.

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements “for able-bodied Americans” could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.

Numerous social-welfare programs grew after the financial crisis, leading to complaints from many Republicans that more should be done to shift people out of these programs and back into the workforce. Shortly after he was sworn in, Trump said, “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work. . . . It’s out of control.”

Trump’s decision to include the Medicaid cuts is significant because it shows he is rejecting calls from a number of Senate Republicans not to reverse the expansion of Medicaid that President Barack Obama achieved as part of the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted to cut the Medicaid funding, but Senate Republicans have signaled they are likely to start from scratch.

Ahh, but the other $900 billion in cuts will be coming from annihilating federal programs that Trump voters know, love, and use, especially in red states already facing budget shortfalls from state-level GOP austerity cuts.

The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast.

An average of 44 million people received SNAP benefits in 2016, down from a peak of 47 million in 2013. Just 28 million people received the benefits in 2008.

SNAP could be one of numerous programs impacted by changes in work requirements.

Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank, said that giving states the flexibility to impose work requirements could lead to a raft of changes to programs ranging from Medicaid to public housing assistance.

“One of the encouraging things about putting this in the budget is that states will see if it works,” he said. “States will try it.”

Oh yes, states will try it. Imagine Kansas's budget crisis only with tens of billions more in federal cuts over the same two-year budget period to have to make up.  By shifting the austerity burden to states, which by law have to balance their budgets, Republicans in DC are targeting high-population blue states like California, New York and Illinois for the deepest cuts, but also big red states like Texas and Florida will be hurt too, along with Medicaid-expanding Ohio.

Trump is siding with the House GOP austerity caucus.  What the Senate will actually pass, and whether Trump will still sign it if he doesn't get everything he wants, is anyone's guess.

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