A president’s budget request is typically the first step in a long process of determining how we should prioritize our resources. A president’s budget request does not necessarily impact the conversation and negotiation in the House and Senate and their respective committees. But, a president’s budget request signals the values of an administration and what our nation’s leader believes is important.
The president’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year is about creating walls, not pathways. It prioritizes a physical border wall when our country should instead be creating pathways for people to achieve their dreams. It adds $8.6 billion for the construction of a border wall while it slashes nearly $7 billion combined for the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, essentially trading pathways to opportunity through education and the workforce for a physical wall.
As the New York Times noted, “Mr. Trump’s budget, the largest in federal history, includes a nearly 5 percent increase in military spending—which is more than the Pentagon had asked for.” There are two things about this that are troublesome. One is that an agency receives more than what it says it needs or even wants. The second is that this additional funding is made available at a time when child poverty affects one in five children in our country and the pleas from children’s caretakers—whether that be families, child care staff, or teachers—go unanswered. We need to stabilize our crisis of child poverty, reverse the trend, and replace every statistic of a child in poverty with one of a child with opportunity. The president had a real opportunity to do right by our children. He chose a wall instead.
Instead of giving the U.S. Department of Defense more than they asked for, we should be investing in strategies to significantly reduce child poverty, as outlined in a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences. This roadmap demonstrates that we can cut child poverty in half in ten years with an investment of somewhere between $91 billion and $109 billion. Knowing that the status quo—due to the enacted tax reform legislation—costs us $1 trillion a year, it might not be a bad idea to revisit restoring some of the revenues that came from tax cuts for people who really didn’t need them to begin with, and direct them towards our children in poverty to give them a fighting chance.
This record-high budget request projects trillion-dollar deficits for the next four years when instead it should prioritize a down payment on reducing child poverty that would actually save the federal government money annually and also literally save lives. Let’s make sure our representatives and senators understand this choice and do right by our children.