Trump’s “Low Priority Programs”

President Trump on Feb. 28 addressed the full Congress for the first time since his inauguration. Despite expressing a desire for bipartisanship, many of the unilateral actions he has taken so far will leave Americans less safe and less financially secure than when he took office: 

  • Preventing federal agencies from hiring new workers or filling vacant positions, for example, makes it harder for them to provide the services that taxpayers expect.  
  • Gutting the budgets of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department endangers the health of our country and weakens our standing internationally.  
  • Promising to unravel a law that has extended health care coverage to millions of people puts their lives at risk.  
  • Handing tens of billions of dollars more to unaccountable defense contractors will do absolutely nothing to improve military readiness. 

Targeted for Cuts in 2018 

One day before Trump’s first address to Congress, White House officials unveiled a plan to boost military spending by $54 billion by slashing non-Defense programs at other agencies to pay for it.  

The biggest cuts are reported to be in the EPA and the State Department. 

EPA’s $8.1 billion budget would be slashed by 24 percent, or about $2 billion – reducing EPA’s spending to levels not seen since the Reagan administration. Dozens of programs are facing elimination, including important initiatives aimed at protecting air and water from industrial polluters. EPA’s workforce of 15,000 would be reduced to 12,000.  

Proposed cuts to the EPA enraged lawmakers and officials from both sides of the aisle.  

Rep. Mike Simpson, chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said there's "not that much in the EPA [budget] for crying out loud." Besides, more than 25 percent of the EPA budget goes to popular clean air and safe drinking water grants for states and local communities. 

“[The proposal] ignores the need to invest in science and to implement the law,” said former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “It ignores the lessons of history that led to EPA’s creation 46 years ago. And it ignores the American people calling for its continued support.” 

State’s $50 billion annual budget could be cut by 30 percent, which would require eliminating programs and cutting diplomatic staff. 

Retired generals and admirals are alarmed by the proposed cut to the State Department and foreign aid. More than 120 of them urged Congress to fully fund America’s strategic investments and diplomatic programs as “elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe.” 

"We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone," they wrote. "The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm's way." 

President Trump’s “Low Priority Programs” 

In addition to the EPA and State, here are a few examples of government functions that the administration considers “low priority” and are under threat for cuts: 

  • Finding cures to deadly diseases (NIHCDCHHS
  • Keeping bombs and terrorists off airplanes (TSA
  • Keeping criminals off the streets and behind the prison walls (BOP
  • Responding to natural disasters (FEMA
  • Protecting national parks (NPS
  • Inspecting our foods (FSIS
  • Making sure our drugs are safe (FDA
  • Helping retirees and people with disability determine their benefits and cutting their checks (SSA
  • Enforcing civil rights laws against workplace discrimination (EEOC
  • Protecting consumers against greedy banks and financial institutions (CFPB
  • Keeping American workers safe from professional hazards (DOL
  • Monitoring weather patterns and storms (NOOA
  • Educating our children (ED
  • Building and maintaining our roads and bridges (DOT
  • Helping Americans become homeowners and boosting local economies (HUD)  

At the Social Security Administration, the agency has informed AFGE Council 220 that they will be forced to furlough the SSA workforce for 5 days for every 1 percent cut in its administrative budget.  

If Trump succeeds in reducing non-defense discretionary spending by $54 billion equally to all non-defense agencies, SSA will have to furlough SSA employees for 8 weeks or 40 days.    

Since 2012, SSA field offices have lost 2,900 employees, or 10 percent of their staff, while workload has increased 12 percent. SSA expects claims will go up 32 percent through 2025 due to the baby boomer generation. 

Because of the staffing cuts, people who appeal their disability claims now have to wait over two years to receive a hearing decision. The wait time for a 1-800 number has gone up 38 percent. Many offices have lines out the door. They have full appointment calendars and people are often sent home because there is no one in the office to interview them.  

Trump’s plan would make the situation a lot worse. Americans may not be able to get their Social Security benefits timely and accurately due to expected draconian staff cuts. 

“President Trump said he wants to work with members of Congress from both parties going forward on new laws that will benefit all Americans. I and the rest of the country intend to hold him to that promise,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. 

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