This Is What Happens When You Starve Federal Agencies

Categories: The Insider

President Trump has ordered federal agencies to cut their budgets by 5% next year after the Treasury Department report showed Republicans’ tax cuts drove the budget deficit to the highest level since 2012.

While Trump told his cabinet members to “get rid of the fat. Get rid of the waste,” Republicans are planning another tax cut that would reduce revenues and add $3.8 billion to the deficit. And just like the first tax cut, the second tax cut will mostly benefit the wealthy: The richest 1% would see an average tax cut of $40,000 while those in the middle would see $980.

The real victims of these bad policies are the American people. Since corporate tax receipts are down by 31% as a result of the top corporate tax rate being reduced from 35% to 21% in the first tax cut, Trump and Congress are now looking for reductions in programs that affect the majority of the American people.

And with a hiring freeze, continued shedding of staff, and previous reckless cuts, federal agencies have been operating without enough resources to do their jobs.

Here are some real-world consequences of underfunding government agencies that not many people are aware of.

1. Data breaches

According to a recent report, a lack of funding for IT upgrades and cybersecurity protection has resulted in a rise in data breaches in the government. The overall federal IT budget dropped by roughly $6.2 billion in 2017. About one in two federal agencies (57%) experienced data breaches in the past year.

“Federal government agencies are experiencing a “perfect storm” around data that is putting agency secrets, and the private data of over 330 million citizens, at risk,” the report said.

2. Poverty

Americans who live in poverty are more likely to stay that way, according to a recent United Nations report on poverty in the U.S. “The United States, one of the world's richest nations and the "land of opportunity," is fast becoming a champion of inequality," the report said.

That’s due to the administration’s policies. One particular agency that deals with poverty has lost 4,312 employees since Trump took office: the Department of Agriculture. And the administration’s plan to reorganize USDA will result in more people leaving the agency and skewed data against poor people. Specifically, the administration is quietly crippling its scientific research arm by stripping the Economic Research Service (ERS) of its independent status and move it under the Office of the Secretary, its political arm. It also proposed cutting the ERS budget and staff by half. That’s not a surprise since the ERS has issued reports that contradict the administration’s claims and policies.

Contrary to Republican members of Congress’ claims that more Americans relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, more than ever and that stricter work requirements were needed, ERS’s findings showed that SNAP participation and its funding have been down since 2013. While many in the administration are climate change deniers, an ERS report found that climate change and extreme weather are damaging to farm production.

The administration is also targeting another USDA’s research office by relocating the National Institute for Food and Agriculture out of Washington by the end of 2019, a move many predicted would result in employees quitting rather than relocating.

3. Pollution

The American people’s health is increasingly in grave danger. The administration has aimed its axe on the environmental protection budget and wanted to undo regulations like the Clean Water Act that hold polluters accountable. In fiscal 2018, it proposed to cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s 2018 budget by 31%, or about $2.6 billion, and get rid of 4,000 employees who dedicated their lives to fulfilling the agency’s mission and protecting community health in this country. It also wanted to cut more than 50 environmental protection programs and slash funding for cleaning up hazardous waste sites by 30%.

As a result of the administration’s hostility toward the agency and its mission, researchers and scientists are leaving the EPA in droves. EPA regional offices have also been quietly downsized.

4. Deadly long waits for Social Security benefits

Due to severe understaffing, budget cuts, and closures of Social Security offices across the country, nearly 1 million people are waiting to hear if their disability claims will be approved. The average wait? 600 days – up from 353 days in 2012. Long waits can cause financial ruin for families. More than 10,000 people died waiting to hear SSA’s decisions.

“They usually lose the car first, then the house. Next comes bankruptcy. Stresses accrue, marriages fracture, pains and illnesses mount, and some die right before their hearings, when the wait is worst,” the Washington Post reports .

More than 36 million people called SSA’s 1-800 number last year. But because of understaffing, "The majority of callers give up without even getting through," Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told members of Congress during a hearing on Social Security.

As a result of budget cuts, SSA has been telling seniors to go online to apply for benefits and wade through all the rules and regulations themselves without human beings to guide and give them advice.

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