Signs pointing forward and backward


50 Years of Progress Threatened in Just 100 Days
April 26, 2017

Over the last 50 years, America has made significant progress toward ensuring justice and opportunity for all.

We guaranteed the right to vote to all. We acknowledged the civil rights of our citizens and those who are within our territories. We provided safety, security, and substance for those who are marginalized. We ensured that the elderly, people with disabilities, and others in need can obtain necessary healthcare.

This progress has been consistent with our shared belief in the American Dream — that all of us should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.

But the first 100 days of the Trump Administration have signaled a clear threat to that progress.

President Trump has consistently proposed policies that would reward wealthy Americans at the expense of the rest of us. Many of these policies would be especially punitive to people living in poverty. Under President Trump’s leadership, the American Dream is in jeopardy.

The Trump Administration has proposed dramatic cuts — including outright elimination — to vital programs that help people in need.

Housing: The federal government plays an important role in supporting housing opportunities, in particular for families with low income. Federal rental assistance helps over 5 million households to rent modest housing at an affordable cost. Yet President Trump’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposed deep cuts in every state in rental assistance for families. Trump’s budget would also cut funding for most federal housing and neighborhood revitalization programs and would eliminate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helped 6 million households pay for home heating in 2015. These proposals seem to promise that many Americans will be left out in the cold.

Food & nutrition: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps millions put food on the table every year. In 2014, SNAP benefits lifted at least 4.7 million people out of poverty — including 2.1 million children. Yet Republican leaders in Congress, encouraged by the Trump Administration, have floated the idea capping annual funding to the states for SNAP benefits. These so-called “block grants” are funding cuts in disguise, and threaten to undermine the SNAP program’s proven effectiveness at reducing poverty.

Healthcare: Although Congress’s recent attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act failed, President Trump has promised to continue the effort. This despite the fact that the ACA has helped millions obtain health coverage and has sharply reduced the uninsured rate for people with low income and people of color. The Medicaid program, which insures one in five Americans and one in three childrenis also at risk. Congressional Republicans, with support from President Trump, have proposed to block grant funding to the states for Medicaid, which would result in cuts in services to people who need healthcare the most.

Legal services: “Equal justice for all” is an American value etched in stone in courthouses across the country. Over the past 50 years, we have ensured access to justice through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation. Lawyers working in LSC-funded legal aid programs protect the rights of almost 2 million people every year. Yet President Trump has proposed eliminating funding for LSC.

Distressingly, President Trump continues to use fear-mongering rhetoric to advance his agenda.

The Trump Administration’s early actions on immigration, including a hastily executed “Muslim ban” and aggressive deportation of undocumented immigrants, evince a clear disregard for our country’s history and values. This policy path will rip families apart and likely increase the number of children living in poverty.

Moreover, the Trump Administration’s emphasis on “law and order,”including the Justice Department’s recent posture change toward police reform, threatens to reverse recent gains in criminal justice reform and will perpetuate mass incarceration of people of color.

The racially and ethnically charged divisiveness promoted by the Trump Administration during its first 100 days shake the very foundation upon which this country was laid.

“Making America Great Again” should not come at the cost of our country’s values.

In 50 years of work to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law has learned a few things. Despite the threats posed by the Trump Administration, we remain determined in our pursuit to demand equal opportunity for all, regardless of income or race, and to protect the 43 million Americans living in poverty from further harm. We still believe in the American Dream.