Commentary: Trump's budget is bad for America's poor

3 x 2 make america great again caps
In this June 2, 2016, file photo, a woman holds hats to get them autographed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally in San Jose, Calif.

BUDGETS are documents that show the priorities of administrations. Last week, Donald's Trump's White House rolled out its first budget that shows it puts walls, weapons and war ahead of America's poor.

This budget plunders money for food from seniors, heat from families and educational programming from America's kids. It bars America's most vulnerable from being able to live in safe, affordable homes and destabilizes communities across the country. With 45 million people in the U.S. living in poverty - and millions more teetering on the edge of it - cutting programs that support families will not make this country great.

Budgets show whether our administration can put themselves in the shoes of the single mom in Colorado or the steelworker in Ohio. Those people need heating assistance via the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and housing supports when their wages don't pay enough to heat their home in winter. They need Meals on Wheels when they are working and cannot care for their parents. Those same people need after-school programs to know their kids are safe.

Trump's budget has none of those things. This budget is a violent affront to America's values and basic human needs.

While the White House budget is meant to support our country and to put "America first," every person in America is simultaneously making his or her own personal budgets to pay for food, utilities, child care and support for their parents. Programs cut or eliminated by this budget will have severe impacts on family budgets. For example, when there is a big snowstorm and families are running their heating system, they may not have enough money to buy food when that bill is due. Everything is connected.

One way we can make sure everyone can succeed is to invest more dollars into helping people pay their heating bills, as LIHEAP - slated for elimination - does. That way, families won't be forced into an unfair choice: pay for heat or buy groceries to eat. Eliminating LIHEAP to pay for greater defense spending doesn't just leave families in the cold; it can also cause them to go hungry.

The Community Development Block Grant program is also slated for elimination. That would result in a significant slash to Meals on Wheels, the meal-delivery program for vulnerable seniors.

In my time as co-chair of the National Commission on Hunger, I learned a lot about the effectiveness of the Meals on Wheels. Such programs are critical to the health and well-being of our seniors who live alone. Through home delivery programs such as Meals on Wheels, seniors are healthier, have better nutrition and are better able to stay in their homes.

All of these improvements save us in health-care costs. The program is so effective that in the commission's bipartisan report, we called for expanding it for more elders and for disabled people. And as the baby boomers age, we must make sure we have effective ways to help them.

Community Development Block Grants are also instrumental in preventing homelessness and helping families find safe and affordable homes, which helps alleviate hunger, as well. We know from empirical scientific evidence of Children's HealthWatch that housing and hunger are related. Again, families in poverty often have to make trade-off decisions: eat or pay rent?

These families often struggle with child-care options. Having a safe place for their children to be while they work provides peace of mind and allows parents to excel at their job. Often, after-school programs also dig into hunger through federal nutrition assistance programs.

All of that could go away with Trump's budget.

So, again, a budget is a statement of values. And what we need to ask is, "What value is there in building up our military might to flex our muscles to the world when we actively cause our young children and families to become more vulnerable?"

This budget doesn't make the government more efficient or put "America first." Disregarding the hungry, the homeless, the impoverished and the elderly all makes us look weak. It's only when we lift up our most vulnerable that we can truly say we're putting America first.

Mariana Chilton is a professor in Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health and director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities.

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