Deliberately choosing to sit through government budget-negotiating sessions is similar to choosing to settle in a lawn chair and watch grass grow, while the gopher population devolves into territorial mayhem.
Still, someone has to keep track of what our elected leaders are up to, and a heart-felt thanks to those who choose to be watchdogs over bureaucracy’s chaos.
There will be weeks, if not months of back and forth between Republicans and Democrats over the federal budget, a draft proposal of which was presented this week by the Trump administration. There are so many things wrong with the Trump budget that the likelihood of it surviving the congressional wringer are remote at best.
For one thing, President Trump has inserted a request for more than $8 billion, money that would be used to build Trump’s promised wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a notion already soundly rejected by House Democrats.
The big lump of cash for a wall rides side-by-side with serious cuts in most domestic programs upon which tens of millions of Americans rely on day-to-day. If this is the strategy to make America great again, we see a dim future.
Another problem is that Trump’s budget seems to take aim at the very segment of the American voting public that helped sweep him into office, specifically America’s farmers, mostly in the nation’s heartland, by proposing deep cuts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Trump called the department’s farm subsidy programs “overly generous.”
Why is it easy for wealthy government officials to determine when subsidy programs are “overly generous”?
Specifically, the Trump proposal would reduce subsidies for crop insurance, which would effectively limit the number farming operations that would be eligible, while tightening commodity limits.
We checked with the local agriculture community, and most local growers do not avail themselves of the sort of subsidies prevalent among heartland farmers, who often are paid not to grow crops, which essentially helps keep them in business. The crop insurance restrictions could impact local farming operations, but that’s not certain until the plan is fleshed out.
In general, the farm bill, crop insurance and commodity programs serve as a safety net for farmers, shielding them from the financial damage of natural disasters and helping to manage risk — such as trade and tariff wars with various trading partners, which President Trump seems to have made a cornerstone of his foreign policy strategy.
While Trump’s proposed cuts to the Agriculture Department budget only touch the edges of the local ag industry, any contact at all could be harmful. Growing and ranching comprise the top industry in Santa Barbara County, providing billions of dollars in direct economic benefits, plus billions more via the ripple effect. If government policy contributes to undercutting the local ag industry, there is no viable replacement industry. This area would suffer.
The budget proposal also would tighten the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which feeds about 40 million Americans and is administered by the Agriculture Department.
What this appears to be is a direct threat to a majority of American workers and families, and the antithesis of what this nation’s struggling middle class really needs, not policies designed to undermine important industries and economic anchors we all depend on.
If any of this frightens you or threatens your financial security, contact your local congressional representative’s office and demand that budget negotiations keep the majority of America and its citizens in mind.
And remember these proposed policy changes when the next big election comes around.