How President Trump's Budget Could Hurt The Voters Who Put Him in Office
Donald Trump ran for president by promising to restore economically distressed areas like the Rust Belt and Appalachia. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” he said in in his inauguration speech, repeating a sentiment he had voiced on the campaign trial from Michigan to West Virginia.
But his proposed budget, which the White House released Tuesday, would cut trillions from social safety programs like food stamps that benefit some of those very same voters.
“The proposed cuts to some federal programs are not mere shavings; they are rather deep and harmful to my district spanning Kentucky’s Appalachian region and other rural, impoverished parts of the country,” said Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky.
Trump’s budget is unlikely to pass as law—president’s proposed budgets typically face a jaundiced eye but this one has gotten even more skepticism. Republican Sen. John McCain called it “dead on arrival.” But the budget signals the Trump Administration’s priorities, and some of those goals may end up in Congress’ own version.
Here is a closer look at the way Trump’s budget would impact vulnerable regions in some of the key states that voted for him.
West Virginia voted for Trump in a landslide, 69% to Hillary Clinton’s 27%. But both of West Virginia’s Senators, Republican Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Joe Manchin—who broke ranks with his party to support Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch—said that the cuts in Trump’s budget would hurt their state if implemented.
Trump’s budget proposes nearly $191 billion in cuts over a ten-year-period to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as the provision of food stamps. In 2016, 20% of West Virginia’s population relied on this program, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Capito, who did praise the inclusion of funding to combat drug epidemics, noted “serious concerns” about the way the budget would impact West Virginians, but did not provide specific examples. She did, however, say she would use her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to ensure funding for programs beneficial to her state.
The budget also proposes elimination of the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal organization designed specifically to improve the well-being of the region’s citizens and economically distressed communities. All of West Virginia’s counties are included in the commission, as are select counties in Alabama, Georgia, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee—all states that voted for Trump.
(Counties in Virginia, New York and Maryland, all states that voted for Clinton, are also included).
In 2016, the ARC, in conjunction with the West Virginia Development Office, supported 55 projects that created or retained over 2,700 jobs and educated over 16, 500 students.
“For many West Virginia residents, the programs and services made possible, in part, by these federal funds provide a critical lifeline,” said H. Wood Thrasher, West Virginia Secretary of Commerce. “Any action that places this funding in jeopardy is detrimental to the future of our communities and our state.”
The ARC had no official comment when asked about the budget proposal.
Michigan, a state thought to be squarely in Hillary Clinton’s camp, was one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 election, and the victory was crucial in carrying Trump to the 270 electoral votes he needed to win the Presidency. Trump was the first Republican to win the state since 1988, and he did so largely by gaining support among white working class voters and increasing turnout in rural counties.
In 2016, over 1.4 million people in Michigan—15% of the state’s population—were recipients of the SNAP program. In Muskegon County, an area Clinton narrowly won last November but Barack Obama coasted to victory four years earlier, 21% of people relied on this program in 2016, the sixth highest in the state, according to data compiled by MLive.com. In Macomb County, which Trump flipped to the Republican column
Trump’s budget also proposes slashing federal funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the federal program that invests in restoring the Great Lakes by cleaning up toxic pollution and combatting invasive species that has also been a source for job creation in Michigan.
John Austin, Director of the Michigan Economic Center, estimates that, since the program was inaugurated in 2010, it has created at least 50,000 jobs in the state and generated $2 billion in economic activity.
“It’s a big contributor to a water based economy and it’s a big contributor the lifestyle everyone in Michigan – including Trump supporters—really appreciate,” said Austin.
The opposition has been bipartisan; Both Democratic Senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, have denounced the proposed cuts in funding, as has Republican Rep. Fred Upton.
“Many of the proposed cuts to important domestic programs that many Michiganders rely on are, frankly, non-starters,” Upton said in a statement. “Of particular concern is funding for our Great Lakes and the National Institutes of Health.”
A representative for Senator Peters’ office also highlighted that the budget includes proposals to eliminate economic development programs and manufacturing partnerships, both of which benefit Michigan residents.
Often viewed as the bellwether state, voters in Ohio have predicted the winner of every Presidential contest since 1960. Like other states in the rust belt, voters were attracted to Trump partially because of his promise to bring back jobs in the manufacturing and coal industries. Like Like Michigan, Ohio has also benefitted from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and both the Republican and Democratic Senators in the state decried the proposed cuts to the program in the budget.
“This bipartisan program helps protect our environment and strengthen Ohio’s economy,” said Senator Rob Portman. But, like Capito, Portman was cautious in his criticism, also highlighting that the budget would retain funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy; Ohio’s death rate from unintentional drug poisonings increased 642 percent from 2000 to 2015, according to data from the state.
But Senator Sherrod Brown, said on Twitter the budget “pulls the rug out from under our fight to combat the opioid crisis,” noting that the budget does not provide additional funding to states for this issue and cuts nearly $400 million worth of programs in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“Individuals and families struggling with addiction need a meaningful commitment from their elected leaders, but instead, the Administration has chosen to undercut the efforts of Ohio communities to tackle this epidemic,” said Brown.
Brown also called the proposal to eliminate the ARC, which includes 32 counties in his state, a “slap in the face to rural Ohio.”