Donald Trump’s budget sure does mark a firm break from party orthodoxy:
The budget that President Trump proposed Monday takes a hard whack at the poorest Americans, slashing billions of dollars from food stamps, public health insurance and federal housing vouchers, while trying to tilt the programs in more conservative directions.
The spending plan reaches beyond the White House’s own power over the government social safety net and presumes lawmakers will overhaul long-standing entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do.
The changes call on lawmakers to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and transform the rest of that program into a system of capped payments to states; convert food assistance into a hybrid of commodity deliveries and traditional cash benefits; and expand requirements that low-income people work to qualify for federal assistance.
In addition to spending cuts, Trump is urging the federal bureaucracy to apply heavy-handed rules designed to humiliate the poor:
Specifically, the Trump budget proposal would gut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, by $17.2 billion in 2019 — equivalent to 22 percent of the program’s total cost last year — and implement a boxed food delivery program, a system that White House budget director Mick Mulvaney compared to Blue Apron.
The proposal would bring a fundamental change to a program that for the past 40 years has allowed recipients to use SNAP benefits at grocery stores as if they were cash. SNAP provides an average of $125 per month to 42.2 million Americans.
Under the full-scale redesign, the Agriculture Department would use a portion of those benefits to buy and deliver a package of U.S.-grown commodities — officially dubbed “America’s Harvest Box” — to recipients, using the government’s buying power to lower costs.
The deliveries of government-purchased foods would account for roughly half of the benefits for the vast majority of SNAP households.
The foods in the deliveries would include shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, and canned meat, fruits and vegetables, according to USDA. The department estimates that it could supply these goods at roughly half the cost of retail, slashing the cost of SNAP while still feeding the hungry.
The lesson, as always, is that Both Sides Do It but the Democratic Party is more neoliberal. Not to mention more authoritarian — why, the theoretical possibility that Congress could impose a tax penalty to incentivize the purchase of broccoli was the greatest threat to human liberty in the history of the republic!