Could Trump’s Proposed Cuts to Medicaid and Welfare Actually Help the Poor?

Trump Budget
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speak to the media about President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget, May 23, 2017. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

The Trump administration has a new way of measuring compassion. That’s the explanation behind many of the proposed cuts budget director Mick Mulvaney put forth this week.

“We’re no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off of those programs,” he said at a press briefing this week. “We’re not going to measure compassion by the amount of money that we spend, but by the number of people that we help.”

The new budget proposal is aimed at eliminating the national debt in the next 10 years, Mulvaney said. To achieve this, the administration proposes cutting many of the programs that help the poor, who often don’t make enough money to pay federal income tax.

According to the New York Times, some of the programs that the proposed budget cuts would hit hardest over the next decade include:

  • Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor, would lose $800 billion.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides nutritional benefits commonly known as food stamps, would lose $192 billion.
  • Welfare programs would lose $272 billion overall.
  • Social Security disability benefits would also get cut by $72 billion.
  • Loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and student loan forgiveness for those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations would also be eliminated.

What Won’t Get Cut in Trump Budget?

Of course, there are some programs that would survive the Trump administration’s suggested deep cuts.

The priorities for the Trump administration are public safety and defense spending.

The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice will each get extra money to fund policing and criminal justice initiatives at the federal, state and local levels. About $2.6 billion of that would go toward strengthening Border Patrol and border security, and $1.6 billion will fund the first stage of construction of the wall along the Mexican border.

The budget proposal also includes $639 billion for the Department of Defense. That’s $52 billion more than was approved for 2017.

That will allow the government to strengthen the military while providing funds needed to extend the Veterans Choice Program, which makes it easier for veterans to get timely care that is close to home.

Trump also requests $19 billion over 10 years to implement six weeks of paid leave for parents following the birth or adoption of a child.

The Reasoning Behind the Cuts

Mulvaney emphasized the compassion behind the budget at the Tuesday press briefing.

“Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation,” he said. “Yes, you have to have compassion for folks who are receiving the federal funds, but also you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it. And that is one of the things that is new about this president’s budget.”

Mulvaney went on to say that the new budget will only pay for the programs the government can ask taxpayers to fund “in good conscious.”

According to Mulvaney, the budget will allocate more money to programs most taxpayers would be “OK with,” like helping injured veterans.

But the administration is uncomfortable with funding programs where taxpayer dollars may be benefiting those who aren’t using the programs as they’re intended, like “this person over here who really isn’t disabled but is getting a disabled benefit, or this person over here who is supposed to use the money to go to school, but isn’t actually going.”

Mulvaney also stated the budget would reduce funding for programs the administration deems ineffective, like one “that is supposed to encourage you to graduate from high school — or from college, but is only 6% effective.”

This budget proposal follows the announcement of Trump’s tax plan, which would cut taxes for businesses and the richest Americans.

Mulvaney said the cuts to programs for the poor combined with lower taxes will work together to spur the economy and create more jobs. Those jobs will presumably help the poor work their way out of poverty and make it so that those who can no longer access government programs will no longer need them.

Mulvaney also said anyone — including the Congressional Budget Office — who doesn’t believe that the Trump administration can create the economic growth it has promised is a pessimist and “we reject pessimism.”

The administration is calling its proposal “The New Foundation for American Greatness,” but Mulvaney says he hopes it will simply be know as “The Taxpayer First Budget.”

“I think for years and years we’ve simply looked at a budget in terms of the folks who are on the back end of the programs, the recipients of the taxpayer money, and we haven’t spent nearly enough time focusing our attention on the people who pay the taxes,” Mulvaney said.

This budget is still just a proposal for now. It will need to pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate before it can become law.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.