Skip to main content

Trump’s Skinny Budget Spells Bad News for Low-Income Americans

A deep cut to the Department of Agriculture would be especially detrimental for the rural poor.

By Dwyer Gunn


(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

This morning, the Trump administration released its “skinny budget,” an approximate blueprint for the more detailed plan it will release later this spring. In order to pay for its proposed increases in defense spending, the budget calls for deep cuts to the Department of State and the Environmental Protection Agency (as the administration had promised a few weeks back). It also calls for cuts to an awful lot of the programs and departments that serve the poor and the working poor in the United States.


(Chart: Washington Post)

The graphic to the left, from the Washington Post’s Kim Soffen and Denise Lu, shows the cuts that Trump is proposing to different agencies.

These cuts would hit low-income voters, particularly those in rural areas, hard. The Department of Agriculture, for example, is the primary government agency in charge of the U.S. government’s rural economic development efforts; rural communities rely on grants from the Department of Agriculture to build community facilities and infrastructure. The Appalachian Regional Commission, an agency that funds and oversees a variety of economic development programs in the distressed region, would be completely eliminated. In the education realm, federal work-study and scholarship funding for college students would be slashed. The proposal also calls for deep cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the elimination of the Community Block Grant Program and cuts to other affordable housing programs. The Department of Labor, meanwhile, would see a 21 percent reduction, meaning funding for some job training and other employment services would be cut.

It’s highly unlikely that the budget, as proposed, will make it through Congress — Democrats will fight cuts like these vigorously and moderate Republicans are also expressing skepticism — but this document illustrates the administration’s priorities. The last several decades have been hard on low- and middle-income Americans. Wages have been largely stagnant; the cost of higher education has skyrocketed; employment opportunities for those without a college degree are rapidly vanishing. And the election of 2016 demonstrated, among other things, just how anxious many people in America are about the future. It’s not clear to me, however, how a budget like this would help the many Americans who feel left behind.