Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Austerity Hysteria, Con't

Donald Trump's budget proposal for FY 2019 is less of a budget and more of an outline of how exactly to humiliate tens of millions of Americans, many of whom voted for the guy. 

The budget that President Trump proposed Monday takes a hard whack at the poorest Americans, slashing billions of dollars from food stamps, public health insurance and federal housing vouchers, while trying to tilt the programs in more conservative directions

The spending plan reaches beyond the White House’s own power over the government social safety net and presumes lawmakers will overhaul long-standing entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do.

The changes call on lawmakers to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and transform the rest of that program into a system of capped payments to states; convert food assistance into a hybrid of commodity deliveries and traditional cash benefits; and expand requirements that low-income people work to qualify for federal assistance.

“We’re very encouraged by their approach to reforming the welfare state, both to taxpayers and the people on these programs,” said Akash Chougule, director of policy for the libertarian group Americans for Prosperity. “We’re encouraged by the president’s rhetoric and recent actions.”

Congress has final say over spending — but Monday’s budget proposal is seen as an important sign of Trump’s priorities.

Ahh, that good ol' Dickensian/Calvinist punishment system.  We never really got over it, you know. Only immoral people need government help, so Trump will make government help so awful that you'll magically fix your own problem.

Specifically, the Trump budget proposal would gut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, by $17.2 billion in 2019 — equivalent to 22 percent of the program’s total cost last year — and implement a boxed food delivery program
, a system that White House budget director Mick Mulvaney compared to Blue Apron.

The proposal would bring a fundamental change to a program that for the past 40 years has allowed recipients to use SNAP benefits at grocery stores as if they were cash. SNAP provides an average of $125 per month to 42.2 million Americans.

Under the full-scale redesign, the Agriculture Department would use a portion of those benefits to buy and deliver a package of U.S.-grown commodities — officially dubbed “America’s Harvest Box” — to recipients, using the government’s buying power to lower costs.

The deliveries of government-purchased foods would account for roughly half of the benefits for the vast majority of SNAP households.

The foods in the deliveries would include shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, and canned meat, fruits and vegetables, according to USDA. The department estimates that it could supply these goods at roughly half the cost of retail, slashing the cost of SNAP while still feeding the hungry.

Advocates for the hungry said they are skeptical of the plan and unclear how it would work for people with specialized diets, or whether USDA would allot the same foods to, say, an elderly diabetic and a family with young children.

It would be a disaster, of course.  Reagan did this with cheese and milk back in the 80's in order to boost the profits of dairy farmers, and rather than just toss the stuff it ended up going to food stamp recipients whether they wanted it or needed it.  Trump now plans to do this with, well, everything.

Hey, we're already testing the program in Puerto Rico, right?  Why not take it national, eh?

It's funny that the party that wrecked health care in the US over the individual mandate raising insurance premiums on tens of millions, that still wages a near decade-long war to assure America has the God-given right to use incandescent light bulbs and screamed "tyranny!" at school lunch nutritional requirements now wants the federal government to literally choose what food millions of Americans eat and give it to them.

Some would call that socialism, you know.   Just saying.  But what do you expect from the brain trust that proposes $300 billion in cuts to infrastructure spending over ten years to turn it into $200 billion in tax incentives to "encourage" states to cough up $1.3 trillion in funds to rebuild federal highways and bridges, then has the balls to call it a "$1.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan"?

There's a lot of painful austerity in Trump's budget proposal, including the elimination of funding for PBS and NPR, huge cuts at HUD, State, the EPA, and massive cuts to Medicaid.  We fought most of those cuts off last year, and I'm betting the GOP won't try it again with midterms just months away, but if the Dems don't win back the House and/or Senate in November, it's going to be brutal austerity in 2019, I guarantee.

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