Trump's New Budget Slashes Funding for Arts, Women's Safety and Civil Rights

Donald Trump and his team have proposed a budget that will not only gut the kind of programs Republicans always take aim at— focused on arts and culture, civil rights and science—but also those dedicated to law enforcement and victims' safety. The slash-and-burn budgetary approach is based largely on recommendations from the Heritage Foundation, a hard-right think tank that receives partial funding from several Koch brothers-backed entities. First reported on by The Hill, the proposal is aimed at reducing spending by $10.5 trillion over the coming decade. The cuts seem likely to come with incalculable human, cultural and societal costs.

On the chopping block are a number of institutions that are invaluable to the arts. Trump’s team is proposing privatization for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and has plans to scrap the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities altogether. These programs make up just .02 percent of federal spending, as noted by the Washington Post. “Put another way, if you make $50,000 a year, spending the equivalent of what the government spends on these three programs would be like spending less than $10.”

According to Fortune, there were an estimated 4.7 million people working in the arts and culture sector in 2013. Despite frequently touting himself as a defender of jobs, Trump’s budget will have consequences for those who rely on the cultural economy. Those jobs and workers are of little consequence to the right wing, as evidenced by a quote from former Heritage Foundation staffer Brian Darling, who considers the arts agencies fully dispensable.

“The Trump administration needs to reform and cut spending dramatically, and targeting waste like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be a good first step in showing that the Trump administration is serious about radically reforming the federal budget,” Darling told the Hill.

Trump’s budget also pitches funding cuts for the departments of Commerce and Energy, hobbling or eliminating areas dedicated to nuclear physics and reducing carbon dioxide emissions, among others. Cuts to the State Department would toss out funds needed for “the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

There are also deep and likely disastrous funding reductions proposed for the Department of Justice, with the Civil Rights and Environment and Natural Resources divisions in the crosshairs. According to the Marshall Project, the Heritage Foundation budget from which much of the Trump proposal is derived “accused the [Civil Rights] division of filing ‘abusive lawsuits intended to enforce progressive social ideology,’ a view held by many conservatives.”

"That the department’s Civil Rights Division would face cuts is hardly a shock. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Trump’s nominee to head Justice, has expressed skepticism or outright hostility towards two of the division’s signature tasks: policing the police and prosecuting hate crimes. But some of the other cuts are surprising. Victims’ rights groups thought they had identified a champion in Sessions, and yet the Violence Against Women grants slated for elimination go largely to support victims of domestic violence. Both Sessions and Trump have been outspoken defenders of the nation’s police, yet the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, is a primary source of funding for officers’ salaries and equipment in departments nationwide."

“Significant cuts to the Civil Rights Division would confirm the hostility of the Trump administration to minorities, women and people with disabilities,” William Yeomans, former DOJ attorney told the Marshall Project.

The “skinny budget,” as the Trump team has nicknamed it, is currently only being distributed to lawmakers in an effort to get them on board. The Hill notes that “Trump’s Cabinet picks have yet to be apprised of the reforms, which would reduce resources within their agencies.”

The report is expected to be made public with 45 days of Trump’s inauguration.

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