We need a budget that respects America’s values

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Washington, February 23, 2018 | comments

February means budget season. The President is required by law to submit a budget request to the Congress. President Trump sent his budget to Congress on February 12 and it was full of disappointment and broken promises.

It is ironic that President Trump’s budget was called An American Budget because it would actually hurt the American people. This budget would dramatically reduce our investment in our people and simply does not reflect the values of our country. 

His budget includes dramatic cuts to education, healthcare, the environment, consumer protection, and our diplomacy efforts abroad. It slashes the social safety net that protects children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

As Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, I was especially disappointed to see the drastic cuts to education and programs to help our workers.

I regularly hear from people who have used Pell grants to afford college. This is a successful program that should be strengthened and expanded. Instead, the Trump Budget freezes the maximum Pell grant at its current level of just $5,920 for ten years.

Of the 6 million students who borrowed money for college, most also received Pell grants – which benefit low-income students.

In California, Pell grants cover 28 percent of the cost of college. If the freeze were to go into effect, Pell grants would cover just 22 percent of college by 2027. This will require students to borrow more money to make up the difference, saddling them with even more debt and limiting their future.

This takes us in the opposite direction. I have introduced a bill to build on the success of Pell grants. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act would provide an immediate increase of $500 to Pell grants. Most importantly, my bill indexes the grants to inflation so the level continues to grow each year.

Not only will this budget put college further out of reach, the cuts to workforce development will do the same for a promising career in a high-paying job.

The budget slashes job training programs, including a 30 percent cut to YouthBuild, which helps low-income young people learn construction skills. Jobs Corps helps young men and women – ages 16-24 – with vocational and academic training. Job Corps would be hit by a 23 percent cut.

I was pleased with one aspect of the President’s budget. His call for a $200 million investment in apprenticeships is a good start in expanding these programs.

We have long neglected the importance of apprenticeships in developing a strong workforce. Last year, I traveled to Switzerland to learn about their apprenticeship program, where 70% of high school students enter into an apprenticeship.

We should bring this focus on apprenticeships to America.

While the funding for apprenticeships is a positive step forward in this area, Trump is also moving to weaken standards for these programs. This means we would be investing in low-quality programs and potentially wasting taxpayer dollars in ineffective options.

Our nation’s most vulnerable are also left behind in this budget.

The food stamp program, formally known as SNAP, would be cut by $213 million. Furthermore, half of SNAP recipients would just get a box of canned goods.

Trump also breaks his promise of protecting Medicare and Medicaid. His budget would cut Medicare by more than $500 billion and Medicaid by $1.4 trillion, jeopardizing health care for seniors in nursing homes, children with disabilities, and working families.

The Trump Budget was simultaneously released with his infrastructure plan. Oddly, while he calls for $1.5 trillion for infrastructure improvements, Trump proposes a nearly 20 percent cut to the Department of Transportation.

A closer look at his infrastructure plan sees just $200 billion being directed to fix our crumbling roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals. The rest relies on the hope of private investment and state and local governments footing the rest of the bill.

We know all too well in San Diego that we are facing a $310 million shortfall in infrastructure funds.

We should be building on the legacy of President Eisenhower, who built the federal highway system that expanded economic opportunity from coast to coast. The federal government simply cannot sit on the sidelines when it comes to rebuilding our nation.

Despite all these cuts, deficits will continue to increase under Trump’s budget. Combine this with the recently passed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and our nation is projected to run annual deficits of $1 trillion under Trump.

At the end of the day, the President’s budget is a political statement. However, it’s a sad statement on what this administration thinks of the American people. They deserve a budget that respects their talent and hard work. This budget does not do that. 

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