Trump introduced his budget proposal on Thursday, March 16, and although it is disappointing to many, it should not be surprising. Nearly every agency except for three is taking a hit. The three winners: Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Homeland Security and Defense Department, i.e. the war machine.
To get a better idea of how much money departments are losing, let’s see what we could buy with the funds lost from the reductions.
Department of Agriculture
With a 21 percent decrease from 2017, the Department of Agriculture will lose $4.7 billion. It will eliminate the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, which “helps support education, child development and food security in low-income, food-deficit countries around the globe,” according to the USDA website.
According to Feed the Children, you can donate $38 to supplement a family of four for up to a week, so one year of supplementing a family will cost approximately $2,000. With $4.7 billion, we can feed 2.35 million families for an entire year.
Department of Commerce
This department will take a 16 percent cut, or $1.5 billion. It will eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency and the Economic Development Administration. The former provides business consulting services to minority business owners, while the latter provides grants and assistance to economically struggling communities.
It costs a lot of money to start a business, which puts many minorities (who are disproportionately at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder) at a huge disadvantage to become entrepreneurs. The Kauffmann Foundation estimated that the average start-up cost is approximately $30,000.
But let’s give minorities a real head start. For $1.5 billion, we can give 15,000 aspiring minority business owners a $100,000 grant, EACH.
Department of Education
The one department that desperately needs an increase will be suffering a 13 percent reduction of $9 billion. Programs being eliminated include the Supporting Effective Educator Development Grant Program and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The latter “supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools,” according the Department of Education’s website.
Additionally, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which is awarded to students in need of financial aid, will be gone. The Federal Work-Study Program will be reduced “significantly.”
A lot of low-income families are affected here. So what could we do with $9 billion? The average cost of in-state tuition is approximately $24,610 a year. Round that up to $25,000 and a four-year education will cost $100,000. With that lost $9 billion dollar, we can pay for the entire college education of 90,000 low-income students. Wow.
Department of Energy
On the lower end of reductions, DOE will lose $1.7 billion or 5.6 percent. This cut “eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program because 20 Department of Energy the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”
According to its website, ARPA-E (emphasize mine) “advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment.”
The cost of high-power, commercial wind turbines is approximately $4 million each. With $1.7 billion, we can install 425 wind turbines. That doesn’t sound like much, but the energy and environmental savings is significant.
At the consumer scale, solar panel energy costs around $35,000 per home. At $1.7 billion, we can install solar panel energy in nearly 50,000 homes. Not only does that significantly decrease the amount of energy and pollution, but this also means significant savings for nearly 50,000 families.
Department of Health and Human Services
With a nearly 18 percent decrease in funding, another very important department will lose a lot of money, $15.1 billion to be exact. Defunding will reduce National Institutes of Health’s spending by $5.8 billion and eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG).
LIHEAP helps keep poor people warm and cool by providing families assistance with energy costs (see DOE budget for another possible solution). CSBG provides core funding to local agencies to reduce poverty, revitalize low-income communities and to empower low-income families to become self-sufficient.
With CSBG’s initiative, nearly 8.6 million families were below the poverty line in 2015. An investment of $15.2 billion dollars can give each of those families more than $1,700, a significant amount of money for poor families.
Regarding LIHEAP’s purpose, the average utility bill is approximately $240, which would be on the high end for low income houses. That comes out to $2,880 a year. With the funding DHHS is losing, we can provide a year’s worth of utility bill money to more than 5 million low income homes.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
More than $6.2 billion or 13.2 percent of funding will be stripped from HUD. This includes the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) and funding for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing.
CDBG “works to ensure decent affordable housing, to provide services to the most vulnerable in our communities, and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses.” Meanwhile, the Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing enhances the capacity and ability of community development corporations (CDCs) and community housing development organizations (CHDOs) to carry out community development and affordable housing activities that benefit low-income persons.”
Essentially, we’re taking money away from the Americans who are in the most financial need.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “renters need to earn a wage of $20.30 per hour” to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in the United States. Assuming the suggested 30 percent of income for rent, that comes to approximately $975 a month for rent or $11,700 a year. With $6.2 billion, we can provide nearly 530,000 low-income families with a year’s worth of rent in a modest home. Another way to look at it is providing nearly 26,500 low-income families with rent for a modest apartment for 20 years!
Department of the Interior
How much is DOI losing? About $1.5 billion or 12 percent from the previous year. This will put the burden of funding of National Heritage Areas to the local governments as well as funding for National Wildlife Refuge.
If there is anyone we owe a lot of money to it’s the Native Americans. There are 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States, according to DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. How about BIA takes that $1.5 billion and gives each of those tribes more than $2.6 million.
The U.S. Geological Survey is also part of DOI. These are the folks that study natural disasters, water management, natural resources, etc. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for a research scientist is about $77,000. Bump that up to $150,000 so we get the best scientists for the job. With $1.5 billion, the federal government can hire 10,000 top scientists to help save the nation’s interior. That should be more than enough.
Department of Justice
“The Department of Justice is charged with enforcing the laws and defending the interests of the United States, ensuring public safety against foreign and domestic threats, providing Federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime, seeking just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and ensuring the fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” America first…with a funding loss of $1.1 billion or 3.8 percent.
The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program is gone to make room for 20 attorneys to obtain land near the Southwest border. A lot of money is being used against “aliens.” That’s the main focus of DOJ’s budget.
Fighting the law is expensive and deters people from seeking justice. According to this report, the average civil lawsuit can run anywhere from $18,000 to $109,000 if taken to trial, putting the average within that range at $45,500. That’s a lot of money to get justice, and $1.1 billion can fund more than 24,000 cases at that average cost and fund 11,000 cases that run $100,000.
Department of Labor
Do your wages suck? You think minimum wage should be higher? Welcome to DOL, which can be stripped of $2.5 billion or 21 percent of its funding. Eliminations will occur with the Senior Community Service Employment Program and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “unproven training grants.”
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour or $15,080 a year with a 40-hour work week. Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour or $31,200/year will add $16,120 of annual income to workers who need it the most and probably work harder than you do.
What can you do with $2.5 billion dollars? Pay for that $16,120 difference for more than 155,000 hardworking employees making the minimum wage. That’s putting “America First.”
Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Veteran Affairs
These are the only departments enjoying an increase in funding under Trump’s budget proposal at $52 billion, $2.8 billion and $4.4 billion, respectively. This totals to nearly $60 billion in increases.
All of these departments are considered part of the “War Machine,” focusing on foreign affairs, border protection and helping soldiers. Whereas most won’t debate the value of the latter, many are questioning the significant increase for the DOD, which is already more than defense spending for China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined, the next seven-highest defense budgets.
Donald Trump’s budget proposal is all about America First, but the only increases go to spending that will affect action in other countries. Domestic transportation, labor, national forests and education are all losing money. These areas are vital for a nation’s success.
Trump’s budget proposal is only that…a proposal. It’s also for discretionary funding, not mandatory funding. Changes are likely to be made before passing Congress, but as you can see those changes need to be vast if we are truly keeping Americans in mind first.