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Gazette editorial: Trump budget would squeeze WV workers for the richest

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With everything going on, you could be forgiven for losing track of some of things at stake in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. It would be terrible for working people, in general, and West Virginia, in particular.

It actually looks a lot like the House Speaker Paul Ryan’s budget from earlier in the year, says Seth DiStefano of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy.

Some of the things we’ve been warning would harm West Virginia if the GOP repealed the Affordable Care Act are also threatened in this budget, namely Medicaid cuts.

Expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act helps thousands of working people from the low end of the income scale by paying for medical care. That’s good for their employers, too. The expansion helped in another way — contributing to about 10,000 jobs in the state, DiStefano says.

But a budget proposal out their would cut Medicaid by $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Theoretically, states can pick up the cost if they think the program is so valuable. In fact, everyone knows West Virginia, like the families that make up the state, doesn’t have that kind of money lying around.

Other proposed cuts include:

n SNAP. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, reaches 130,000 kids in West Virginia on any given day, as well as about 30,000 seniors and more than 81,000 working people.

n Pell grants, federally funded need-based aid to pay for college. There are 32,000 Pell grant recipients in West Virginia, a state everyone says will be more attractive to employers if it raises the proportion of people with education after high school. Average Pell grants pay 55 percent of tuition, down from 80 percent in 2002, says the Center on Budget & Policy’s Sean O’Leary.

All these cuts have one thing in common — they target people who are trying to improve their circumstances, people who work but have trouble keeping a one-month emergency fund, let alone more. These are people who are weathering economic upheaval and local recessions that don’t clear up like the national numbers suggest.

That is why they are called safety net programs. When the bottom drops out of someone’s world — or their industry — it is good business, not to mention humane, to help them out until they find their footing again.

That is not the mood in much of the GOP Congress or in the White House.

With the money saved, the Trump budget would cut taxes for the richest Americans, very few of whom live in West Virginia.

Congress has been understandably distracted by recent hurricanes, and President Trump did managed to get the nation’s debt ceiling increased to keep things going for the next three months. But the federal fiscal year ends at the end of this month. Soon, members of Congress are going to have to vote on their priorities.

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