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Trump’s budget plan raises hackles, skepticism with deep cuts to social programs

Free Press staff, wire reports | 5/26/2017, 12:51 p.m.

WASHINGTON

Angry Democrats and skeptical Republicans are fighting back against attempts by administrative officials to defend President Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget that slashes safety net programs for the poor, targeting food stamps, Medicaid and student loan forgiveness, while relying on rosy projections about the nation’s economic growth to balance the budget within 10 years.

The cuts are part of a budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year that amount to a dramatic restructuring of the government, with protection for retirement programs for the elderly, billions of dollars more for the military and the rest of the government bearing the bulk of the reductions.

The plan, released Tuesday, would cut $610 billion from Medicaid, the federal-state health care for the poor and disabled; slash federal assistance for the food stamp and feeding programs by $191 billion, or nearly 30 percent; reduce mental health services and substance abuse treatment grants to states by nearly $300 million; and make deep gashes in education funding, including cutting $2.3 billion for teacher training and class-size reduction, $1.2 billion from after-school programs and $190 million for literacy programs.

Additionally, it would cut student loan programs by $143 billion and phase out a program that forgives student loan debt in exchange for public service. It also would eliminate federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation, which provides access to justice for low-income Americans; eliminate the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program that provides grants to help localities, farmers and others reduce pollution into the Chesapeake Bay; eliminate cost of living adjustments for retired federal employees; and reduce federal funding for transportation infrastructure projects.

Under President Trump’s plan, the cuts would be accompanied by a proposed $54 billion increase in military spending, financed by an equal cut to nondefense programs, which meant slashing medical research and foreign aid.

Law enforcement and border security would get increases, along with a $1.6 billion down payment to begin building a wall along the border with Mexico, a central program of the Republican’s presidential campaign.

It also would cut tax rates, but rely on erasing tax breaks and economic growth to avoid adding to the deficit. It would create three tax brackets — 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — instead of the current seven.

Opposition to the plan was swift and loud from lawmakers and advocates for a myriad of programs that would be affected.

“The president’s budget is nothing but Robin Hood in reverse — stealing from those most vulnerable while rewarding those who already have the most,” said Rep. A. Donald McEachin of Henrico, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 4th Congressional District.

“As proposed, it would make egregious, draconian cuts to programs that Americans count on. It would take our country back to a time when government turned their backs on hardworking families. Middle class Americans, minority communities, low-income families, children and the elderly will suffer under this budget, which fails to protect funding for public education, health care, housing and the social safety net.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, promised to work with his Democratic and Republican colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee to “prevent these harmful, short-sighted cuts” that he said would dismantle critical programs that support thousands of Virginia families.