Let’s consider President Donald Trump’s budget. Dr. Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development ( H.U.D.), has to allocate billions of dollars to cover his enormous and complex responsibilities. Millions of women, men and children in the inner cities across the country are dependent on his judgment for the years ahead. How he views poverty is crucial to their lives, housing, and food they must have every day.
When he declared in mid May, 2017 that “poverty is a state of mind”, it created a furor as political and social authorities reacted on editorial pages and cable television. Adam Schiff, (Democratic Representative, CA) asked. “How would you diagnose Hunger? Homelessness? Addiction? As hallucinations?” Dr. Carson grew up poor in Detroit and became a famous neurosurgeon. After his comments in a radio interview hit the airwaves, he sent an email to the HUD staff, saying “ I had to will myself to see the opportunities that existed on the horizon.” He added that his mother “willed me to find a way out.” Carson has also said, “ public housing shouldn’t be too comfortable lest it induce long term dependency.” Researchers like Professor Eldar Shafir, a behavioral scientist at Princeton who studies poverty, say Carson has confused the causes and effects of poverty.
President Trump released his $4.1 trillion budget on Tuesday, May 22, 2017. Headline: New York Times, May 23: “Budget Plan Cuts Deeply Into Anti-Poverty Efforts” The title: “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” The president’s annual budget usually faces challenges when it hits Capitol Hill and Congress raises serious questions. For example, Mark Meadows, a conservation Republican in the House said he “ could not stomach the idea” of taking away food assistance for older Americans. “Meals on Wheels” even for some of us who are considered fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far.”
The budget calls for a ten percent increase in military spending and deep cuts in programs for women, men and children living in poverty such as food stamps and school breakfasts and lunches. Over the next decade, $800 billion will be slashed from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion from welfare programs. The budget would also cut disability programs by $72 billion that millions of Americans rely upon. Totally eliminated are student loan programs for the poor that subsidize college educations and those who enter jobs in government or non-profit. In contrast, there will be the millions of dollars in tax reductions for the wealthiest members of our country, the .01 percent at the top. They may also benefit from reduction or elimination of the estate tax. The budget calls for $2.6 billion for border security including $1.8 billion to begin work on the wall with Mexico.
There is a $193 billion cut over ten years to SNAP, Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program which provides food stamps for households with low incomes. It became a controversial subject when Ronald Reagan complained that “Welfare queens were driving up in pink cadillacs to collect food stamps! ” The facts are that each month food stamps help feed 43 million poor and low-income Americans, most in families with children and working parents. Other recipients are disabled or elderly living alone. Benefits average only $1.40 per meal per person. Food stamps also support the farm economy and supply cash that is quickly spent boosting the economy.
Budget director Mick Mulvaney suggested a “work requirement for able bodied adults” to receive food stamps. That already exists! Adults who don’t have dependents or a disability must work at least 80 hours each month or participate in a work force program. In the fiscal year 2015, two thirds of SNAP participants were children, seniors and adults with a disability. About 37 percent of adults were employed and 27 percent were looking for work.
A corollary to the need for food stamps is the prevalence of low wage jobs in our society. In 2016, six of the 20 largest occupations – mainly in retail, restaurants and home care – had median wages near poverty level for a family of three. Eight of the ten jobs that are expected to add the most positions in the next ten years pay poorly. A New York Times lead editorial on the subject concluded, “ Congress and the White House can rectify , not by cutting spending, but by raising the minimum wage, updating the overtime pay rules, and instituting paid sick leave – for starters.”
……………………………………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson