In bid to balance, Trump budget slashes benefits

In bid to balance, Trump budget slashes benefits

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump releases a 2018 budget request Tuesday that includes huge Medicaid cuts and changes to anti-poverty programs as it strives to balance the budget within a decade, the White House said in previewing the plan.

The proposal includes a staggering $1.7 trillion in cuts over 10 years to a category of spending that includes key social and "mandatory" programs for lower-income Americans.

Several elements are on the chopping block, including $272 billion worth of welfare programs such as food stamps and a curtailing of children's health insurance programs.

The plan boosts defence spending by $54 billion, or 10 per cent above 2017 levels, and notably adds $2.6 billion for border security and immigration enforcement, including $1.6 billion for building a border wall.

It also proposes a "fully paid for" six-week family leave programme for new parents, costing $18 billion over 10 years.

Certain popular entitlements will remain unaffected.

"We do not touch mainline Social Security and we do not touch Medicare in this programme," White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Monday.

Trump campaigned heavily last year on promises not to cut Social Security, the Medicare health insurance programme for those over age 65, or Medicaid, which funds health care for low-income and disabled people.

But Medicaid will suffer a hit of $800 billion over a decade, as part of the reforms included in the Republican bill that repeals and replaces Obamacare.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that such cuts would end Medicaid benefits for 10 million people, and some Republicans have expressed unease about such changes.

The budget would give states flexibility to impose work requirements for those in certain anti-poverty programs.

For example, states would be entitled to toughen Medicaid rules on able-bodied Americans who do not have children.

"We're not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but how many people we actually help," Mulvaney said.

"What we've done is not to try and remove the safety net for folks who need it, but to try and figure out if there's folks who don't need it, that need to be back in the work force."

The plan was counting on economic growth projections of 3.0 per cent, and assumes that the Trump tax overhaul, still in its infancy, will be "deficit neutral," Mulvaney said.

With the assumption that the new American Health Care Act passes Congress as is, the budget would also defund women's health care provider Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services opposed by conservative Republicans.

Democrats have savaged Trump's plan as breaking his vow not to cut Medicaid.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned it will leave Americans worse off.

"It's a budget that takes a meat cleaver to the middle class by gutting the programs that help them the most, including many that help create jobs and power the economy," Schumer said.

Congress is unlikely to approve the budget wholesale. But it needs to pass a spending bill by September 30, the end of the fiscal year, in order to avert a government shutdown.

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