While many people tune in to watch every detail of the Russia investigation in congressional hearings and on the news, there is a quieter but equally critical threat to our country’s wellbeing looming: the proposed Trump budget. Though it may not be making daily headlines, what happens in the Trump administration and the GOP Congress with this year’s budget fight will have a direct impact on the lives of Americans for years to come.
When the Trump administration unveiled their budget proposal this spring, it was clear what is not valued. That this president has slashed funding in the worst possible places—programs that serve as a critical lifeline for low-income families and the middle class who are often living from paycheck to paycheck—shows where his priorities lie.
The threat is very real, and would be particularly devastating for poor women and many women of color, their families, and their communities.
One of the places where the budget cuts significant funding is in the Medicaid program, which is slated to lose $610 billion and cease to exist as we know it. Approximately half of African American and Latinx young people are enrolled in Medicaid, and two-thirds of Medicaid recipients are women. Medicaid is critical for women’s overall health, funding almost 50 percent of all births in our country—and its coverage of contraception has allowed untold women to decide for themselves whether and when to have children. The proposed Trump budget also explicitly and unprecedentedly targets Planned Parenthood, which would remove the primary source of quality, affordable health care that improves the lives of many low-income women, rural women, and women of color—as well as men.
There is simply no getting around the fact that slashing funding for Medicaid and targeting Planned Parenthood is a direct attack on the health of marginalized women, children, and families. As the National Women’s Law Center noted, “calling the Trump budget’s cuts to Medicaid ‘cruel’ barely begins to describe it.”
Other proposed cuts are equally cruel, like funding for legal aid often used in cases of domestic and sexual violence, substance abuse and mental health care access, and programs that help support families’ basic living standards and ability to put food on the table. The Trump budget took aim at the TANF program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which provides cash support for food, shelter, utilities, and clothing for very low-income people. Like with Medicaid, cuts here disproportionately affect women and their families, with women—predominantly women of color—representing a striking 85 percent of adults who rely on TANF support and would suffer. We can’t be quiet about this threat!
It’s time to become consumed by and give attention to the list of Trump cuts that goes on and on. Food stamps? They face deep cuts in the Trump budget—and women are nearly twice as likely to have used them. Pell grants? Also targeted for funding cuts. Fifty-seven percent of these grants go to women—women who aren’t looking for a handout but simply help to get college or vo-tech education and training to improve their lives.
Be consumed by the fact that even after-school programs that feed children aren’t spared, causing an additional challenge for parents who are working or in school with very limited income. Trump’s budget director callously defended the move by claiming that there’s “no demonstrable evidence” that these programs are “helping kids do better in school”—as if that’s the only possible reason our country would want to support and feed hungry children.
We can no longer be quiet about these threats. All budgets require tough choices between competing priorities, but it is irresponsible and inexcusable for a country to consider balancing its budget on the backs of marginalized women and their families. Congress should reject Trump’s shameful budget proposal on behalf of every household in their district that will be put at risk, and they should demand one that doesn’t scapegoat those in our country who can least afford it, today or in the future.
Don’t be one of those who say, “This doesn’t concern me and mine.” Maybe not, but what about a family member, neighbor, coworker, or friend? Whether directly or indirectly affected, we all need to pay attention, be consumed by and become familiar with, and give volume to the details of this budget.
Those concerned about Russia are taking care of Russia. But who will take care of the marginalized women and families, the millions who would lose these safety net programs and end up hungrier, sicker, and possibly homeless under this budget?
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi is the director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way.