Trump Budget Fails to Live Up to Its Rhetoric for Children

In his State of the Union speech, President Trump made a few comments about children that were heart-warming. For example, Trump said:

. . .as President of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion and my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers and America’s forgotten communities.

In my last blog, I called for the President to translate those words into actions and policies that help and improve the lives of our nation’s children. Mere words don’t suffice. If we truly value our kids and our nation’s future, we must make the necessary investments in helping children achieve their full potential.

Fortunately, the recently passed Bipartisan Budget Act included a number of important investments to our nation’s children, including long-term extensions of funding to Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program and commitments to increase funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG).

Today, the President released his FY 2019 budget entitled “An American Budget.” Sadly, although the rhetoric continues to sound good, it fails our nation’s children.

For example, the U.S. Department of Education released its summary of the President’s proposed budget for the agency and quotes Trump saying:

The foundation of the American Dream is a quality education that instills lifelong skills and develops strong character. All our Nation’s children deserve the chance to be successful, to live fulfilling lives, and to give back to our communities. As parents, teachers, and advocates, we recommit to ensuring that all children in America have a meaningful opportunity to harness their full potential.

Sounds great, except the Trump education and early childhood budget proposals would a disaster for kids. In fact, the President’s own budget documents acknowledge that his recommended budget for education programs is “a $7.1 billion or 10.5 percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level.”

The policies don’t match the words. For example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos argues, “The president’s budget request expands education freedom for America’s families while protecting our nation’s most vulnerable students.” To defend that, DeVos’s press release goes on to highlight the budget’s proposed $12 billion in grants for the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

However, in a separate document, the department acknowledges that funding per child would drop from $1,751 per child in FY 2017 to an estimated $1,726. That figure doesn’t even account for inflation, but still leaves schools with less support for children with disabilities.

That isn’t progress.

Even worse, the budget proposes to eliminate 29 other education programs entirely, including funding for afterschool and summer school programs serving 2 million children (21st Century Community Learning Centers), Full-Service Community Schools, Promise Neighborhoods serving high-poverty communities, and Special Olympics Education Programs.

Despite DeVos’s rhetoric, the President’s budget outline would have the opposite effect of “protecting our nation’s most vulnerable students.” In fact, it puts them all at tremendous risk.

As Jodi Grant, Executive Director at the Afterschool Alliance explains:

The President’s proposal to eliminate federal funding for afterschool programs is bad for children, bad for families, bad for our education system, bad for our workforce, bad for our economy and bad for America. Zeroing out funds for afterschool programs is short-sighted and dangerous. It ignores decades of research demonstrating the many ways afterschool programs support student success. It betrays millions of families who rely on these programs to keep their kids safe, inspire them to learn and provide parents with peace of mind during the sometimes perilous after school hours. It is, quite simply, a terrible idea.

Meanwhile, over at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the budget document is entitled “Putting America’s Health First.” In the section outlining its health reform proposal, the HHS Budget in Brief promises to “ensure that Medicaid and other programs focus on the Americans that they were intended to serve — the elderly, people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women.”

Unfortunately, for the elderly, people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women, it proposes to slash $1.39 trillion out of Medicaid, despite his campaign promises to protect the program.

Trump proposes to repeal the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and covert it to an underfunded block grant while simultaneously gutting what remains of Medicaid through the imposition of arbitrary per capita caps or limits upon the health coverage of children, the elderly, and the disabled.

Unfortunately, Trump’s health “reform” proposal mirrors the Graham-Cassidy legislation that would have disproportionately harmed children last year.

As if that isn’t bad enough, the President’s budget also calls for cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the amount of $5.9 billion. Although HHS acknowledges that the recent passage of the 10-year extension of CHIP in the “Bipartisan Budget Act” will necessitate revising the baseline estimates for CHIP later in the year, HHS retained and did not rescind the President’s budget proposal to cut children’s health coverage by capping eligibility for CHIP to 250 percent of the poverty level.

Ironically, this would have the effect of moving more kids out of CHIP and into either the ranks of the uninsured or into Obamacare, which the President proclaims he wants to abolish, in the states of Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

And then there is the budget for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in HHS. In HHS’s own words:

ACF’s Budget supports enabling more parents to find work and achieve self-sufficiency, lifting their families out of poverty and promoting the school readiness of their children. This effort includes helping families facing financial crises or economic insecurity, thereby combatting child poverty; supporting low-income working families with access to quality child care; improving outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system; increasing child support payments; and continuing to support early care and education programs. Funds are also included for programs that serve runaway and homeless youth and victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and human trafficking.

If the President was planning to demonstrate his “highest loyalty, greatest compassion and constant concern for America’s children,” then certainly his budget would reflect his words in these areas, right?

Not so much.

HHS’s Budget in Brief shows that the Trump Administration is proposing a $7.5 billion, or 14 percent, cut to ACF programs between 2017 and 2019, predominately through the elimination of the Social Services Block Grant ($1.7 billion), elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program ($3.4 billion), and a massive cut to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ($2.2 billion) — all critically important programs for low-income families with children.

In his State of the Union speech, Trump proclaimed that he wants to help “our youth to grow up to achieve great things. I want our poor to have their chance to rise.”

Frankly, this won’t happen if Congress were to enact his budget. Trump’s budget calls for an astounding $17.2 billion, or 22 percent, cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps. The fact is that children will fail to thrive and rise to achieve great things if they are hungry and malnourished.

As Vice President Joe Biden has said:

Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.

This budget does not value children — not even close.

In sharp contrast, the President prioritizes $18 billion in new funding for a border wall, which, according to The Hill, is not supported by legislative leaders representing districts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Children deserve better.

We will work closely with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to reject Trump’s budget proposals and to make children a real priority in the federal budget process, just as Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) does.

Children need our voices to weigh in with our nation’s leaders to #InvestInKids. Please consider joining The Children’s Network to push our nation’s leaders to make children a priority throughout the budget and appropriations process in Congress. We need to find out “Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding.”