the Beacon Journal editorial board
President Trump brought Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill together. Members of both parties joined in declaring that the White House budget plan would be cast aside, so many of its proposals way beyond the possible, landing in the realm of cruel.
Why then discuss a document already past its shelf life? A budget plan provides insight into a presidency, about priorities, fleeting and sustained. Perhaps the president and his budget director think they have established a clever bargaining position. The severity of their choices betrays the concept of responsible deal-making.
Much has been made about the president breaking his campaign pledge to protect Medicaid and Social Security. Consider the disturbing way he does so. The House bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act includes $1.25 trillion in spending cuts during the next 10 years. The president takes that sum and adds another $610 billion in Medicaid reductions, or $1.85 trillion in all. That puts at risk many seniors, children, people with disabilities and families of modest incomes seeking to gain health insurance.
Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income aids poor seniors and people with disabilities. The president would cut $72 billion from the program.
Perhaps most clarifying about the harshness of the president’s budget plan is the treatment of federal food assistance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In this case, the reduction would be more than $193 billion the next decade, a cut of 25 percent. More than 84 percent of the Ohioans receiving food assistance are children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Those children often are part of low-income working families.
As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the president would shift $116 billion in costs to the states. Currently, the federal government picks up the entire tab. The president proposes moving one-quarter of the expense to states by 2023.
What would that mean for Ohio, more reliant on the federal government for public welfare funds than any other state? The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calculates the state would need to find $599 million a year (based on 2016 spending levels). For the decade, the figure (again based on last year) is nearly $4.2 billion.
Where would the governor and state lawmakers find the money? Chances are, they wouldn’t make up the difference. The president adds to the burden for the poor and vulnerable by removing the national commitment to provide a benefit sufficient to afford a basic diet. More, the budget plan restricts the waiving of time limits on assistance to areas with at least 10 percent unemployment, or 1.3 percent of the country now.
Current rules permit states to increase eligibility levels above 130 percent of the poverty level, aiding many working households. The president’s budget would eliminate that option.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stresses, this budget plan isn’t somehow about getting tough on freeloaders. Those put in jeopardy would be the needy or working families looking to make ends meet, many of whom voted for the president.
One in 6 Ohioans receives food assistance. Together, they would see a reduction equivalent to more than two times the food provided each year through the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. That is the hardship the president proposes.