US House budget: Trading access to health care, SNAP for tax cuts for wealthy, defense spending

Clark Biegler
Aug 09, 2017
The U.S. House has released their budget resolution - or the framework they propose to use to pass a budget in the upcoming months. The budget resolution is an important step in the budget-setting process and sets an overall vision for the next 10 years. And the U.S. House's vision is frightening. It calls for trillions of dollars in cuts to investments in our economy and assistance that helps Americans afford the basics to fund a large increase in defense spending and huge tax cuts, the bulk of which are likely to go to the wealthy and profitable corporations. Additionally, the budget resolution proposes to enact many of the entitlement and tax cuts through a fast-track process called "reconciliation," which only requires a simple majority in the Senate to pass.

The House budget proposal includes:
  • $4.4 trillion in cuts over 10 years to entitlements, which include cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), and Pell Grants. This would mean steep reductions in the ability of Americans across the country to access health care, put food on the table, and afford college. For example, it would cut the maximum Pell Grant amount for very low-income students by $1,060, or close to 20 percent. The House's budget plan also would cut basic food assistance through SNAP by more than 20 percent over 10 years through both direct funding cuts and shifting funding responsibility to the states for the first time. This will stretch states' more limited resources and will likely increase hunger across Minnesota.
  • $1.3 trillion in cuts to non-defense discretionary funding over 10 years, the part of the budget that includes important job training, public health, and many other programs that build strong communities, whose funding levels are set each year through the appropriations process. This area of the budget is already subject to strict funding caps - called sequestration. The House budget would cut ever more deeply, and by 2027, non-defense discretionary funding would be 44 percent below its 2010 level, after adjusting for inflation.
  • $929 billion in increased defense spending over 10 years. Defense spending is currently subject to caps like non-defense discretionary, but the House resolution funding increase is so large it would surpass even pre-sequestration funding levels by $19 billion. This would end the practice of treating defense and non-defense equally when lifting sequestration caps.
  • A directive for tax cuts that would overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent of U.S. households. While the budget resolution itself doesn't include the full policy details, the priorities laid out would set a lower top tax rate for certain businesses, which would primarily benefit wealthy investors. Proposals also would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, which currently prevents very high-income households from using so many exemptions in the tax system that they pay little to no income taxes.
While specific line items might differ, the House budget resolution closely mirrors the priorities of President Donald Trump's budget proposal and would be devastating for Americans. Also similar to the president's proposed budget, the House resolution is built on a set of false assumptions and huge "magic asterisks" that hide the real effects of the budget. For example, the House resolution relies on unrealistic economic growth expectations and assumes $700 billion in savings with no plan to produce them.

The full House is expected to vote on the budget resolution in September when they return from the August recess. House members should reject such a skewed vision for the United States and instead craft a bipartisan plan that makes investments that support communities. At the same time, the House is already working on bills that flesh out the details. Check out the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits' federal policy website and its federal budget tracker and federal appropriations infographic for more details.

-Clark Biegler