Get ready for a war on the poor. With Donald Trump and congressman Paul Ryan in control of government, crucial anti-poverty programs like Head Start, free school lunches, food stamps, and Medicaid are endangered.
During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Paul Ryan took aim at poor kids, telling the crowd of conservative leaders and activists that free lunches provided to children by government programs give them “an empty soul.”
The Wisconsin Republican then shared a story he heard from Eloise Anderson, who serves in the cabinet for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:
“She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.”
He went on to say that “the Left” doesn’t understand this desire for dignity, not just comfort.”
With both houses of Congress and the White House under Republican control, big tax cuts for the richest among us are a virtual certainty. As a result, trillions of dollars in revenues will likely be lost and Congress will be on the hunt for spending cuts to offset them. Social programs like the school free lunches will be among the first items in their sights.
We’ve already seen something of a blueprint for what’s coming: Paul Ryan’s wish list was in his 2015 budget proposal. Nearly 70 percent of its heart-stopping spending cuts would have come from programs designed to help moderate- or low-income people.
Last spring, Ryan recommended, among other things, cuts to unemployment assistance, a phase-out of the Head Start program, and rollbacks in the federal Pell Grant program, which provides desperately needed assistance to low-income students pursuing higher education.
That was the good news. The bad news is that President-elect Donald Trump and a like-minded Congress are barreling ahead with plans clearly designed to increase the hardships faced by the poor across all segments of the population.
The overriding goals of Donald Trump and his allies in Congress are to expand the wealth, status, and power of the privileged few at the expense of everyone else. That’s why big tax cuts for the rich are the top priority.
Unless advocates for the poor in and out of Congress mobilize for a fight like they haven’t seen in decades, an awful lot of poor people will face many long years of extreme—and I do mean extreme—suffering.