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Today, let’s talk about the budget.
What’s at stake
The president returned from his trip to the Middle East, the Vatican and the G7 summit with a lot on his plate back home. He set himself a deadline on whether the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accords. His son-in-law and closest adviser, Jared Kushner, is reportedly now under scrutiny in the Russia investigation. And now he’s got a budget to sell.
The local angle
Trump’s most detailed federal budget proposal yet came out last week, and outlines cuts for nearly every domestic agency outside of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, some of which we’ve already written about. The president’s latest proposal, though, includes a slew of previously-unannounced cuts to social services programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). Those cuts could hit Philly, the poorest big city in the country, particularly hard.
Some 480,000 people in Philadelphia — including 182,000 children — get SNAP benefits. Under Trump’s budget, the feds would cut SNAP by 25 percent over the next 10 years. The budget would expand work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries — which proponents say are aimed at getting more people back to work. It would also save federal money by making states pick up some of the tab for SNAP costs.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington think tank, estimated that under the president’s plan, Pennsylvania would be paying an extra $680 million a year for SNAP by 2023. (The more conservative Cato Institute, which advocates for entirely state-run food stamp programs, applauded the cuts for “paring back the bloated welfare state“). Local anti-hunger advocates, in a state that already has a $1.2 billion budget deficit, worry that would only mean more cuts.
“Not only are the feds walking away from their financial responsibility, but they’re passing the buck on tough decisions — the states will decide how to trim benefits and limit eligibility,” Kathy Fisher, the policy director at Philly’s Coalition Against Hunger, told me. “It makes advocates crazy — you’re not only fighting at the federal level for adequate funding, but there’s a battle at the state level, too.”
Presidential budgets never make it through Congress unchanged. Democrats reacted to this one with outrage, and Republicans were lukewarm at best. (PA’s own Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said he agreed with the plan’s broad goals but not some of its particulars.) But while this budget, as a whole, is basically dead in the water, it does act as a handy breakdown of what the Trump administration thinks the country should be spending money on — and Republicans share a lot of those priorities. So don’t write it off just yet.
What they’re saying
“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.” — President Trump, on his @POTUS Twitter account, commenting on a white supremacist who murdered two men in Portland. The tweet, sent Monday, was not retweeted to his personal account, which has 12.8 million more followers.
“We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” — German chancellor Angela Merkel, on her country’s alliance with the U.S. and Britain, after meeting with President Trump and other world leaders at the G7 summit.
“My handshake with [President Trump] was not innocent.” — French president Emmanuel Macron, on the Death Grip Felt Round the Internet.
In other news…
- While you were driving to the shore Friday night, the Washington Post broke the news that Jared Kushner had asked the Russian ambassador about opening a secret backchannel of communication to the Kremlin last December, for reasons yet unknown. It might be connected to another meeting Kushner had around the same time, with a politically wired Russian banker, the New York Times reported Monday. (Like the Times and the Post, the FOX story used anonymous sourcing. A week ago, Trump tweeted it was “very possible” such sources are made up by reporters.)
- Tucked away in Trump’s budget is a previously-only-hinted-at plan to raise premiums on federal flood insurance. There are nearly 300,000 policyholders in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the Jersey pols in particular are not pleased, my colleague Jonathan Tamari reports.
- Former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is spending his retirement drinking red wine, mowing his lawn, and blithely insulting his old GOP colleagues, called the nascent presidency a “complete disaster” last week.
What I’m reading
- The Times on Jared Kushner, (reportedly) falling star; and the Post on working under a president who’s fond of snubbing his staff (see: Spicer, Sean and papal visits, denied).
- My colleague Will Bunch on the murders in Portland; and a heartbreaking local account of the victims’ last moments.
- My colleague Luis Ferré Sadurní on a trip to Lancaster County, where the local farmers went for Trump and are now waiting to see what that decision meant; and my colleague Michael Matza on neighboring Chester County, where deportations are creating a “climate of fear” among mushroom farm workers.
A non-political palate cleanser
Iconic Center City diner Little Pete’s, where I ate many solo dinners but never once felt alone, closed on Monday, and I am bereft. The Inquirer’s Kristen Graham was there for its jam-packed, bittersweet, characteristically no-nonsense final day in business.