Katie Hill: Trim costs with a scalpel – not an ax

Katie Hill, executive director and deputy CEO of PATH and a candidate for Congress, is one of three Democratic candidates for the 25th California Congressional District race in 2018. She is seen here during a Signal-sponsored debate on Measure H in February. Dan Watson/The Signal

I’m not opposed to trimming our federal budget. There’s no denying there is waste in our government, and we should not be leaving trillions of dollars of debt for our children to pay.

I do believe, however, that we need to be far more thoughtful about how we make those cuts than the Trump administration showed itself to be with the recent release of its proposed 2018 budget.

It calls for massive cuts to domestic programs to pay for many Trump priorities, including the controversial border wall with Mexico. How is that an “America First” budget?

While I applaud the increase in funds to the Veterans Administration to help more of our veterans see doctors, I’m deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to affordable housing that will make it harder to get our homeless veterans off the street.

I’m concerned about the cuts to programs that help working families, including military families, make ends meet, and I’m concerned that the significant cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency will inflict irreparable damage upon our environment and our economy.

Trump’s budget proposal would cut 31 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. This is unsurprising, as Trump has attacked the organization on numerous occasions.

There is certainly waste in our government, and the EPA is not excluded. But brutally slashing the budget (that’s 3,200 jobs!) of the agency that keeps our air clean, our drinking water safe, and ensures that there is something left of this earth to pass down to our children reflects an oddly cavalier attitude toward the health and well-being of our communities.

The cuts to the EPA are just one example of why this budget is remarkably shortsighted.

The White House’s proposal would also shrink the Jobs Corps program. Job Corps currently provides education and job training to more than 60,000 young people with high school diplomas in our country.

So many of our young adults already cannot find work because they aren’t qualified for the available jobs and cannot afford the education to earn those qualifications.

Without Jobs Corps, that’s 60,000 more people willing to work who can’t get those higher-paid, middle class jobs – jobs that make it possible to have a family and still make ends meet.

Then there are the cuts to programs that help our seniors. Too many seniors are unemployed or underemployed and, with retirement accounts devastated by the Great Recession, too many seniors are living in poverty.

We’ve seen the number of seniors experiencing homelessness skyrocket in L.A. County in the past several years, and it’s a problem we expect to get worse as rents continue to rise and seniors with fixed incomes get pushed out of their housing.

Yet the Trump administration wants to eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program, an initiative that helps low-income job seekers 55 and older find work with nonprofits and public agencies.

The Trump budget would also cut funding for Meals on Wheels, the national program that provides meals to homebound seniors.

The benefits we get for slashing the budget and reallocating funds to Trump’s pet projects are far outweighed by the demonstrable harm they would cause to working families, seniors and future generations.

To make matters even more frustrating, these programs targeted for elimination make up a miniscule portion of the federal budget. There are far bigger fish to fry, and, if I’m elected to Congress, I’ll go after them.

For example, we need to reform our tax system to make sure every American, including our president, is paying his or her fair share. It is fundamentally wrong that middle-class families – all of us living here in the Santa Clarita Valley – are paying a far larger share of their incomes than the top 1 percent of earners in our nation.

The Trump administration isn’t just cutting jobs and programs and services; it’s cutting opportunity.

If we want a more prosperous, secure future, we should be investing in domestic programs that provide every family with the opportunity to succeed.

As the executive director of a non-profit, I get the importance of running a lean and balanced budget – I do. But the idea that we will be better off as a nation if we cut funding for affordable housing, protection of our natural resources, job training and services for our seniors while reallocating resources to an expensive, ineffective wall on the Mexican border is absurd. It is in no way putting America first.


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