The Trump administration released its proposed national budget on March 16. President Trump promised to “increase funding for the military […] without increasing national deficit”. To this end, the administration proposed sweeping cuts across federal agencies, such as the Departments of Education, Labor, State, and the EPA. It also proposed to eliminate funding for several federal aid and grant programs. Since then, this plan has been rejected for the current fiscal year but they plan to revisit it again in September, which could have major implications.
Though this is only a proposal, many across the country are beginning to worry. The proposal shows the president’s ideal budget and the dramatic cuts echo a promise he made during campaigning to reduce federal spending by cutting what he has deemed “soft domestic programs”. A demographic that is expressing significant worry over this budget is college students, who see their future as under threat.
“These cuts would prevent me from finding a job in the field I wanna work in.” Christian Bruno is an environmental policy major at Champlain College, with a minor in law. He plans to work directly with the government, either as a secretary or lobbyist. Environmental policy is at the forefront of his career path.
For Bruno, the proposed cuts to environmental programs was “not an option”. If government work shrinks or dries up, he plans to become an activist, with the same passion and drive to protect the environment. Trump’s budget cuts would threaten his future.
Ashley Wasilewski, a sophomore at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, said that the proposal to completely eliminate the National Endowment of Arts was “crazy” and that “there won’t be as much stuff going towards my school or the students”. She also expressed concern that the state would follow the federal example, lowering funding for the arts even further.
Wasilewski also noted that this budget would affect her personal career plan. She plans to go into gallery installations, with event management or gallery curation as possible day jobs. “There won’t be as many galleries, and people won’t be purchasing as much art. We as a nation aren’t gonna be as supportive of artists and won’t be promoting artists or having artists visit the White House,” she stated.
President Trump seemed to support that notion. In his statement on the budget, he said, “The core of my first Budget Blueprint is a $54 billion increase in defense spending in 2018 that is offset by targeted reductions elsewhere.” The proposal, crafted in large part by Mick Mulvaney, was based on recommendations and policy declarations from Trump.
Though Wasilewski has not personally taken steps against the proposed cuts, a group of students at MassArt has been active in contacting their representatives. They have been calling congressmen, forwarding letters from students all over the school, and attending events with congressmen.
Such strategies have been very effective in the past few months. The American Health Care Act, advertised by Paul Ryan and Donald Trump as a replacement to the Affordable Health Care Act, died in the Senate. The failure of this bill was brought about in large by overwhelming constituent pressure on moderate Republicans. An integral strategy of Democrats post-election is to mount pressure on congressmen to oppose any nominations or legislation by the Trump administration.
In the process of the national budget, President Trump’s proposal is only a first step. The national budget then travels through multiple layers of congressional committees, during which the agencies receiving cuts will be able to make their cases. Just as with the AHCA, many citizens targeted by the budget proposal plan to put pressure on their congressmen. If constituent pressure is great enough, the final budget for the 2018 fiscal year may look very different from Trumps proposal.
Schuyler Gann, a Communications major from Champlain College, has another approach. He plans to work on the campaign for his local county chair. His primary concern is the plan to eliminate funding for Public Broadcasting. He said, “If this happens, alongside the administrations attacks on journalism, news and media is gonna become less and less of a field.” Gann fears that if public broadcasting shrinks, and private interests offer funding. He added that Trump’s budget is “gonna force some compromises that will hurt the entire idea of public broadcast.”
Gann also reminisced on the role PBS played in his childhood, “PBS played a large part in making me who I am today, and it would be a shame if my nieces couldn’t get that same entertainment and information.” Already, the Senate Financial Committee of West Virginia has moved to cut funding from WVPBS. If this passes, West Virginia would become the first state to completely eliminate its public broadcasting.
All three students agreed that if their field was cut from the 2018 budget, they would work to promote their desired careers through other methods. Wasilewski stated that if the NEA is cut, she would stay in school and keep making art. She would continue to be a writer, and said that “if the government’s gonna stifle artists, we just gonna keep getting louder”.
Though the budget was already rejected, many fear that the idea to revisit the proposal shows a worrying trend for the next four years of the Trump administration. The president has made clear his willingness to slash domestic programs in the name of military spending and such an agenda is likely to influence the national budget for the span of his presidency.