It’s hard to pick and choose the most cold-hearted element in President Trump’s budget. But one stands out in its urgency and scale. The cornerstone piece of the president’s massive agenda to transfer wealth from the middle-class families to those who live in gated communities is careening toward passage with the unveiling of the Senate’s version of its bill to repeal Obamacare.
The frenzied news coverage about the House and Senate efforts to roll back access to health care has yet to shine an intense enough spotlight on the most heart-wrenching fact that children will bear the brunt of this cut more than any other Americans. Both bills slash hundreds of billions from the federal Medicaid program, putting the health of more than two million children in Pennsylvania and New Jersey at risk. Across the nation, Medicaid insures four in 10 of all children and three-quarters of the poorest children.
To make matters worse, the Senate structured its bill with cynical and narrow carve outs that make for good sound bites — such as “disabled children will not lose care” — that don’t really protect those children. They’ve also resorted to unethical tricks, like slowly phasing in the sweeping cuts to Medicaid so that the real impact of the millions of children and adults who will lose health-care coverage is beyond the time horizon used for the Congressional Budget Office calculations. Both maneuvers hide the horrific magnitude of the bill.
The Senate plan tightens the tourniquet on American families more than the House bill by increasing the cost families must pay to purchase private health insurance and decreasing the amount of federal subsidy that helps them close the affordability gap. Just as in the late 1990s, when medical bills were a leading cause of personal bankruptcy, if either of these bills passes, thousands of average families will be forced to go into Chapter 11 after unavoidable and routine childhood operations like a tonsillectomy or appendectomy.
The bill is so bad for kids that hours after it became public, the normally more restrained and politic statements from major hospital associations in the country lambasted the bill as a “draconian and devastating contraction of funds that support health care for low-income Americans and children.”
These cuts, wildly celebrated by many House Republicans, are just the beginning of the assault on children in the president’s budget. The entire program to help very low-income families keep the heat on in the winter is eliminated. Twenty-five percent of the funds for SNAP, the food-stamp program, are gone. Those are the funds that help feed more than a million children in the tristate region.
Add to that plan to harm our children the $9 billion cut to the Department of Education which would slash funds for teacher training, after-school programs, college work study, and grants to expand college access, and the list goes on. The coup de grace is the redirecting of $1 billion from the poorest schools in America to pave the way for a decidedly unregulated voucher plan. Keep in mind that nearly every school district in America relies on Medicaid to make it possible for many special education and medically fragile children to attend school. That support would be gone when the Medicaid cuts are enacted.
More than any before him, this president’s proposed budget would destabilize schools and cause thousands more children to be colder in the winter, hungrier every day, and on top of all that, they will be sicker all year-round. The harm to children will be swift and severe. Like the trauma that neglected children suffer from, this budget will inflict devastating damage to children that will be very hard or impossible to repair, with the high costs to society spanning their lifetimes.