Earlier this week, Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the administration began spinning recent news of an increased deficit—now $779 billion; blaming it on spending for programs that help working families get by. In this story, they conveniently forget to address the impact of the enormous tax cuts—nearly $2 trillion—they gifted to the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations via the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.
We knew that this would be part of their playbook—give massive tax cuts to the rich and use the ballooning deficit to slash programs that help working families get by when times are tough, or wages just aren’t enough.
The president and his allies in Congress did not waste any time in deploying this strategy. The president, in his budget request for fiscal year 2019 aimed to cut billions in funding for critical programs that help children and working families. While just earlier this month Congress passed a bipartisan bill to fund critical health, labor, and education programs for another year, the threats to these programs are not over.
Take for example, the reaction of Office of Management and Budget Director Mulvaney, attributing the increased deficit to “irresponsible and unnecessary” spending—pointing the finger at programs that help working families, without saying anything about the tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest among us.
The spending decisions that Congress makes have serious implications for millions of Latinos across the country. The reality for many hardworking Latino families is that while the cost of living is ever increasing, wages aren’t keeping up.
That’s where critical federal anti-poverty programs come in. These programs lift millions of working families out of poverty by rewarding hard work with tax credits, helping families afford nutritious food though SNAP, and keeping a roof over families’ heads with rental assistance programs. These programs, proven to successfully help lift families out of poverty, were at risk of drastic cuts by the administration, whose priorities align more with corporate tax cuts than critical poverty-reducing programs.
Each year these anti-poverty programs help lift millions of Latinos out of poverty. In a new analysis of 2017 poverty data, we found that:
- Refundable tax credits including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit alone lifted 3.4 million Latinos out of poverty, including 1.8 million Latino children. These refundable tax credits reward hard working families by putting money back in their pockets to help make ends meet.
- SNAP, a federal anti-hunger program, lifted 904,292 Latinos out of poverty in 2017, including 595,371 Latino children.
Federal rental assistance programs lifted 801,174 Latinos out of poverty including 283,303 Latino children in 2017. But, we’ll point out again, we’re not out of the woods on threats to these programs. Partisan debates around funding for these programs in funding or administrative action to undermine these programs—like the attempt to increase work requirements for SNAP, threaten valuable and effective programs that are working and lifting millions out of poverty. If Congress can’t come together to fund these critical poverty reducing programs by December 7, we will face the threat of another government shutdown.
Further, in a few short months, the president will again submit a budget request. The president just asked agency heads to cut spending by 5% for the next fiscal year and hinted he would like to see even greater cuts.
Instead, the administration should remember that spending to ensure millions of Americans have health care, can afford food, and have a roof over their heads isn’t an irresponsible or unnecessary expense. That is a distinction best left to the trillions of tax cut dollars funneled to the rich.