The two most stunning things about the federal budget proposal issued by the Trump administration Thursday are these:
Domestically, its cuts would fall hardest on low-income Americans in rural areas, aka Trump voters.
It also slashes funding for diplomacy, foreign aid, the U.S. Agency for International Development and United Nations peacekeepers during what the U.N. has called the gravest humanitarian crisis since 1945. Would the world then hear from us only with bombs?
For the record, we do not see the federal budget as untrimmable, and this proposal is of course only a blueprint — a starting point for negotiations with Congress rather than where we’re likely to end up.
But even as an outline of presidential priorities, its contours run counter to President Donald Trump’s slogan about making America great again.
It keeps a couple of key Trump campaign promises — significantly boosting defense spending, by $54 billion, and asking for $1.7 billion this year and $2.6 billion next year to build a wall along our border with Mexico. But in a number of ways, it breaks his vow to rebuild infrastructure and rescue those in “forgotten” rural America.
Between cuts to agriculture, job training, road projects and programs that help low-income families with affordable housing and heating and weatherizing their homes, forgotten America would only fall further behind. Without the Legal Services Corp. that provides counsel to the poor, many would have no way to battle a wrongful eviction or domestic violence.
It proposes eliminating a program that encouraged growth in Appalachia, and it provides $150 million less to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
The president is certainly following through on his promise to have only “little tidbits left” of the Environment Protection Agency, but he has also said he would safeguard clean air and water, and it’s unclear how that would be accomplished under a plan that cuts 3,200 jobs and whacks overall funding by almost 30 percent.
Clean-energy research, enforcement efforts targeting polluters and the cleanup of Superfund sites would be cut significantly, and projects that clean up the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and San Francisco Bay would be defunded completely.
But readers should be clear: If enacted, the budget cuts would have a direct and dramatic impact on dozens of programs in and around Kansas City.
▪ Community Development Block Grants. Kansas City expects to receive $7.2 million in such grants this fiscal year. The funds pay for social programs and community improvement in some of the city’s poorest areas. The Trump budget ends the CDBG program.
Here’s a partial list of agencies and programs in Kansas City that use CDBG money and would face cutbacks if the grants are ended: Niles Home for Children; reStart; Guadalupe Centers; Full Employment Council; Palestine Senior Activity Center; Operation Breakthrough; Westside Housing Organization; Girls and Boys Club; United Inner City Services … you get the picture.
▪ Legal Services Corp. Legal Aid of Western Missouri, based in Kansas City, has received about $2 million a year from Legal Services Corp. to provide legal help for poor and working-class clients. It’s about 25 percent of Legal Aid’s budget. Missouri is now being sued for allegedly spending too little on criminal defense for indigent clients.
▪ AmeriCorps. The budget eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service, the parent group for what’s known as the domestic Peace Corps. This year, there are 362 AmeriCorps workers in Kansas City, providing services in schools and nutrition programs.
▪ The National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In December, the NEA announced grants for Kansas City’s Black Archives, the Historic Kansas City Foundation, the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The budget eliminates the NEA.
KCPT-TV and KCUR radio receive funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Neither would disappear if it were eliminated, as the Trump budget proposes, but programs and news coverage could be reduced. Cutting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s funding to zero would devastate public radio and television in smaller communities in Kansas and Missouri.
▪ Essential Air Service. The program subsidizes passenger air travel to Joplin and Salina, among other cities in the two-state region. Trump cancels it.
▪ Amtrak. The budget ends subsidies for long distance train services, which would likely halt the Southwest Chief route from Chicago through Missouri and Kansas and on to Los Angeles. The Missouri River Runner, which connects Kansas City and St. Louis, is paid for with state funds but might be closed if Amtrak is defunded.
▪ TIGER grants. The Trump budget eliminates the program, which paid for many of the improvements in the Green Impact Zone. A $20 million TIGER grant helped pay for the streetcar.
The budget also makes significant changes in education and local homeland security policies.
Politicians in both parties said Thursday they think the budget blueprint will be changed — significantly — in the days ahead.
We hope so.