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Trump's Budget Director Mick Mulvaney Insists Cutting Meals for Poor Seniors is Compassionate

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President Trump has unveiled his 2018 budget proposal to Congress, which calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending while slashing environmental, housing, diplomatic and educational programs, and calling for the outright elimination of 19 agencies. The budget would also cut spending for the State Department and USAID by 28 percent, and slash billions of dollars in funding for the United Nations. The Office of Management and Budget director describes Trump’s proposal as an America First budget, even though numerous programs to help the poor are on the chopping block, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps the poor pay for heat during the winter, the Legal Services Corporation, which funds free legal aid nationwide, and the Community Development Block Grant program, which partially funds Meals on Wheels to feed the elderly, poor, veterans and disabled. When asked about the cuts, OMB head Mick Mulvaney said they were "about as compassionate as you can get."

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AMY GOODMAN: President Trump has unveiled his 2018 budget proposal to Congress, which calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending while slashing environmental, housing, diplomatic and educational programs. The budget would also cut spending for the State Department and USAID by 28 percent and slash billions of dollars in funding for the United Nations.

The Office of Management and Budget director describes Trump’s proposal as an America First budget. The big winners are the Pentagon and Homeland Security. Trump is requesting a $2.8 billion increase in funding, largely to pay for expanding the border wall and hiring 1,500 new Border Patrol and ICE agents, despite the fact that for over a year he said Mexico would pay for that wall, which Mexico has adamantly refused to do.

The big losers are almost every other sector of government. The National Institutes of Health would see its funding slashed by 20 percent. And Trump is proposing a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency along with the elimination of 3,200 jobs there. If approved, the EPA’s budget would become the smallest it’s been in 40 years. The budget calls to end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and related efforts. It also reduces Superfund cleanup funding and eliminates funds to clean up the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Meanwhile, Trump’s budget calls for the outright elimination of 19 agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public radio and television stations across the country, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Education Department would see a $9 billion cut, even as so-called school choice programs would receive $1.4 billion more in funding. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been a major backer of such programs, which include vouchers for private and religious schools that divert public funding out of the public school system. Numerous programs to help the poor are on the chopping block, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps the poor pay for heat during the winter, the Legal Services Corporation, which funds free legal aid nationwide, and the Community Development Block Grant program, which partially funds, among other things, Meals on Wheels to feed the elderly, the poor, veterans and the disabled.

During Thursday’s news conference, OMB head Mick Mulvaney described the budget as "compassionate" when he was asked about cuts being made.

JIM ACOSTA: Just to follow up on that, you were talking about the steelworker in Ohio and the coal miner in Pennsylvania and so on, but those workers may have an elderly mother who depends on the Meals on Wheels program, who may have kids in Head Start. And yesterday or the day before, you described this as a "hard-power budget," but is it also a hard-hearted budget?

MICK MULVANEY: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s—I think it’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do to actually—you’re—

JIM ACOSTA: Cut programs that help the elderly and kids?

MICK MULVANEY: You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place. And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, "Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore." Single mom of two in Detroit, OK? "Give us your money." We’re not going to do that anymore, unless we can—unless we can—

JIM ACOSTA: And if the single mom has two kids—what if that single mom has two kids in Head Start?

MICK MULVANEY: —unless we can guarantee—please let me finish, please let me finish—unless we can guarantee to you that that monies actually be used in a proper function. And I think that is about as compassionate as you can get.

AMY GOODMAN: On Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded to the budget proposal by accusing the Trump White House of attempting to deconstruct the federal government.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: This is a budget of the deconstruction of the federal government. They are deconstructionists. They have said that. I mean, they make no bones about that. They have—if one thing, listen to what they say. There is clarity. They want to deconstruct. In this case, you see what they’re doing in terms of infrastructure.

AMY GOODMAN: Pelosi appeared to be referencing a recent comment by White House chief Steve Bannon.

STEPHEN BANNON: I think if you look at the lines of work, I kind of break it up into three verticals or three buckets. The first is kind of national security and sovereignty, and that’s your intelligence, the Defense Department, homeland security. The second line of work is what I refer to as economic nationalism. The third, broadly, line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state.

AMY GOODMAN: To get response to Trump’s budget, we’ll, after the break, speak with longtime consumer advocate, four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Stay with us.

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