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New Trump Proposed Budget Contains Nearly $300 Billion In Social Safety Net Cuts


President Trump has long promised his supporters they won't have to worry about cuts to the social safety net.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Republicans want to protect the safety net, save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. People love Medicare, and it's unfair to them. I'm going to fix it and make it better, but I'm not going to cut it.

CORNISH: During a recent CNBC interview, he appeared open to cuts.


TRUMP: At the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that's actually the easiest of all things, if you look, because it's such a big percentage.

JOE KERNEN: You're willing to do some of the things that you said you wouldn't do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare, in terms...

CORNISH: This morning, the White House released its proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and it provides some clarity on the president's priorities. Here to walk us through it is Kate Davidson. She covers the U.S. economy for The Wall Street Journal. Welcome to the program.


CORNISH: No one is expecting this budget to be passed, but which version of President Trump do we see in it - the one who preserves the social safety net or the one who cuts it?

DAVIDSON: Well, that's an interesting question. I think that we're seeing - I think we're seeing the - really, the men behind the curtain, if you will - the president's budget officials, who come from kind of this establishment Republican view that there are changes that need to be made to the safety net. So President Trump, of course, has come out and said that he's going to maintain funding for these programs.

But what we're seeing in the budget is - I guess you could call it tinkering, but it's fairly significant spending reductions in some of these programs - about a trillion dollars in spending lowered for Medicaid over the next decade, about half a trillion on Medicare - excuse me - and about $292 billion in welfare reform. So there are a number of places where the safety net is certainly weakened.

CORNISH: And yet, we're hearing the terms reform and cuts used interchangeably by the administration. What exactly are we looking at in terms of their suggestions or their wish list?

DAVIDSON: That's right. So I'll give you a few examples. So for Medicaid, for SNAP - that's the program formerly called food stamps - TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. One of the main things that the administration wants to do is implement work requirements for these programs so people who are able-bodied who are between 18 and 65 years old...

CORNISH: So things we're seeing at red states, right? I mean, people are actually trying out these reforms right now.

DAVIDSON: That's true. Some of these are happening right now, and there's definitely been pushback against some of these efforts. And some of them haven't all been successful. But the idea that the administration says that they're pursuing is they want - they say that this will draw more people into the labor force, which would be good. And the labor market's very tight right now. I think that the results are sort of mixed on whether that's actually working. But that's one idea that would save money but obviously mean that some people would lose coverage.

CORNISH: So some of these ideas are already in use on the ground, have already had a little bit of blowback. What does this mean for the president marching into 2020 in a reelection campaign with these priorities, these policy ideas in hand?

DAVIDSON: Well, I definitely think that Democrats are going to point to this budget and even point to previous budgets where the president has proposed similar ideas and say that this is a promise that you've broken even though, obviously, the president's budgets haven't gone anywhere and, as you said, Congress is unlikely to pass this. They haven't come close to doing anything like this. They will still argue, this is your priority. This is your wish list. The families that you said you cared about and that you wanted to help in your State of the Union address last week - we're turning around and getting a budget this week that would...

CORNISH: Will that work with his base, though, or the people who are on the fence?

DAVIDSON: I'm not sure. Frankly, I'm not sure that it will.

CORNISH: Why do you think that?

DAVIDSON: Well, I think that there - I mean, as we've seen, there's pretty strong support for the president among his base. And I think there's a real sense of, you know, of fairness and of earned benefits. And, for example, one of the proposed changes would be to Social Security disability insurance payments and tightening who is eligible for that. And I wrote a story about that recently and got a lot of feedback from people who think, well, if I'm out there and I'm trying and I'm working, then other people should have to as well.

CORNISH: That's Kate Davidson. She covers the U.S. economy for The Wall Street Journal. Thank you for your time.

DAVIDSON: Thank you, Audie.

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