Read this article as originally published in Ms. Magazine.
Earlier this week, President Trump released the top-line figures of his Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal—revealing a stunning lack of awareness about who is struggling in the U.S. and why and how best to support them in overcoming their challenges.
Trump’s budget proposes deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, many of which provide necessary and life-saving services to low-income Americans who struggle to feed themselves and their families, including attempts to decimate vital safety net programs like food stamps (SNAP). Those impacted most by the Trump budget proposal will be, overwhelmingly, women and their children.
The term “feminization of poverty,” coined years ago, described what many hoped was a singular and short-lived phenomenon—but the years have proven that such poverty persists and is only growing more pervasive.
Today, single mothers head over half of all low income households with children, and female-headed households are twice as likely to be poor. One third of single mothers struggle to feed themselves and their children. While 14 percent of all households are food insecure, over 30 percent of female headed households are food insecure. As women age, they are more likely to age into poverty and become newly poor, in need of government resources for the first time in their lives, and work requirements Trump attempts to put in place for SNAP or Medicare recipients will also present senior women with a stunning new reality: that they must return to work or not have enough to eat.
Trump’s proposal reveals how out of touch this administration is with the realities of everyday life in the U.S. On the heels of a government shutdown that revealed the precarious financial circumstance for tens of thousands of federal workers and an attempt to circumvent the will of Congress by imposing harsh time restrictions on eligibility for SNAP, this budget proposal is the latest in a string of heartless attempts to punish working families and low-income Americans—who are overwhelming female.
True leadership requires moderating political impulses with judgement, wisdom and compassion—all of which are in short supply in this budget proposal. These cuts represent a dangerous and deliberate attack on programs founded to help our nation’s most vulnerable meet their basic needs, and the proposal clearly reflects this administration’s agenda to chip away at the social safety net, undermine vital programs that help struggling families and remove the safeguards that keep people from going hungry in this country.
The Trump administration has been nothing if not consistent in their efforts to punish the poor. But rhetoric and cruel ideology will not keep food on the table—and that’s why it’s the government’s responsibility to adequately fund the programs that do so.