Today, President Donald Trump is expected to unveil a budget proposal that calls for an historic culling of federal government spending and jobs. At the same time, Trump’s budget would create a significant expansion to the already bloated defense budget at the expense of essentially every other government program in existence.
“Unfortunately, we have no alternative but to reinvest in our military and make ourselves a military power once again,” National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said on Fox News Sunday. “If you’re doing that in an area where you have to balance the budget and you cannot create a further deficit, you have to make cuts.”
Trump’s budget will target what is known as discretionary spending, which Congress authorizes each year. Generally, more than half of these funds go to the military, with the rest spread across agencies focused on things like education, diplomacy, housing, transportation, and law enforcement. The most severe cuts proposed have been all out dissolutions of programs like the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities, as well as public broadcasting. Similarly, the cuts to Housing and Urban Development have left a number of housing leaders apoplectic.
Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, told the New York Daily News that the budget proposal points to the Trump administration’s coming “assault on poor people in America.”
In New York, city housing officials have already begun to brace for draconian cuts to the housing programs that thousands of people rely on. The New York City Housing Authority will see at least $35 million in cuts this year, the biggest cut in funding for the NYCHA in five years. Administrators are anticipating cuts as high as $150 million.
“The direction we’re moving in is one where public housing is drastically different or doesn’t exist,” Shola Olatoye, the agency’s chief executive officer told The Wall Street Journal. “The progress we have made over the course of the last three years — it’s not that it’s at risk. It evaporates.”
“The progress we have made over the course of the last three years — it’s not that it’s at risk. It evaporates.”
One of the most significant impacts of Trump’s budgetary razoring will come in federal employment. Thousands of federal jobs are at risk as departments are dramatically shrunk or eliminated completely. Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Obama loyalists had “burrowed into government,” falling in line with Trump’s comments In February in which he said the government would have to “do more with less” under his budget. Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist, has called for a dismantling of the “administrative state.” Not surprisingly, the moves to slash jobs will have a significant impact on African-Americans, who hold about 18 percent of federal civilian jobs, while making up around 13 percent of the U.S. population. The unemployment rate for African-Americans remains twice that of the national average, and federal employment has historically been one of the few ways African-Americans have been able to propel themselves into the middle class.
According to the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education, blacks are 30 percent more likely than non-blacks to work in the public sector, and about 21 percent of black workers are public employees, compared to 16.3 percent of non-blacks. There are a number of reasons for this, chief among them America’s history of systemic racial discrimination. While change is typically slow in the private sector when it comes to affording disenfranchised groups civil rights, the federal government does have authority to compel its workforce to comply. We saw this with Obama’s ruling against LGBT discrimination among federal employees, as well as his call for an increase in the minimum wage those who worked for the government. What Trump and Bannon mean when they say they want to reduce the role of government remains to be seen, but one of the most immediate consequences will be yet another hit against America’s black population, who to this day, have never had a fair shake.