Trump's Sweeping Public Housing Changes - Part 2
The Senate is even more problematic for Carson's harsh agenda, as Republicans hold a slim 51-49 lead in the upper chamber. The harshness of the proposal, coupled with Donald Trump's propensity to marginalize members of his own party like Senator John McCain of Arizona
, would do little to entice GOP Senators to enact such sweeping changes. Add in a large number of Americans living in states with Republican Senators who rely on public housing assistance in suburban and rural areas, and the odds of Congressional approval sink even lower.
Trump critics claim the proposed new requirements are a way to strengthen his political base of "working class white voters" by designing racially charged public policy based solely on stereotypes about public housing.
Trump supporters counter by maintaining that the goal is to limit handouts to those content to live off of the government instead of working. The incendiary nature of these respective positions makes it more likely that Trump will continue to use the proposed new restrictions as campaign rally rhetoric instead of guiding them through the legislative process to become law.
Trump Agenda Calls For Major Changes To Social Safety Net Programs
Carson's proposal comes on the heels of an executive order signed by President Trump directing federal agencies to expand work requirements for low-income Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, public housing benefits and welfare. All agency recommendations are to be submitted to the White House this summer.
SNAP Recipients May Face Strict Work Requirements
Concurrently, the House Republicans unveiled changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps) as a component of the 2018 Farm Bill. The proposal, which has already been approved by the House Agriculture Committee, expands employment initiatives as a condition to receive SNAP benefits. The new rules would mandate most of the adult recipients under 60 must work at least part-time or enroll in a state-run training program. Currently, 42 million Americans receive food stamp benefits.
However, the House Republicans failed to pass that 2018 Farm Bill in late May 2018,
signaling a stunning ineptitude to pass legislation written wholly and entirely by their caucus. Although most of the 30 Republicans who voted against the bill did so based on issues surrounding immigration, the defeat gives valuable insight into just how difficult the task of passing legislation is, even when one party is in complete control of Congress.
One high-profile piece of Trump’s budget proposal, a controversial suggestion to replace half of the families’ cash benefits with a box of nonperishable, government-sourced goods, has failed to receive serious consideration after being highly scrutinized by the press and public alike.
Is Trump Using States’ Rights To Sidestep Congressional Oversight?
A more pressing concern for people who depend on public housing is the recent decision made by the Trump administration to allow states to impose work requirements on residents enrolled in Medicaid. With no Congressional approval required, state legislatures and governors nationwide could help Trump accomplish his goal in a piecemeal fashion, albeit an incomplete one. Three states have already opted into the new requirements, and at least seven more have begun the process to do so shortly.
Along similar lines, the Trump administration also gave states permission to impose much higher premium payments and kick people off Medicaid for failing to pay.
These punitive measures have only one objective: to reduce the number of people receiving Medicaid and other government assistance programs.
What Comes Next?
Due to the brazenly political nature of these policy shifts, the ability to distinguish whether these changes are successful is non-existent, mainly because Republicans and Democrats have opposing views of how success is to be defined. What Democrats view as a win on this issue is the polar opposite of what the Republicans see as a win.
The inability to define the success of these proposals virtually guarantees that the millions of Americans who rely on these programs will have no choice but to watch this game of political ping-pong continue; at least until the November midterm elections.
As significant aspects of the economy continue to shift for lower-income Americans, and the country teeters on the brink of a trade war with unknown economic consequences, the timing of these proposed cuts could not come at a worse time for impacted families. How it all ends is anybody's guess, but regardless of the outcome, Americans should brace for a long, messy political battle.