The drastic budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump in several areas, including the arts and humanities, should give rise to intense lobbying against its approval and negative impact.
If it were approved according to Trump’s guidelines, Puerto Rico would keenly feel the reduction of funds, especially in the areas of healthcare, justice, housing, and the environment. There would also be negative effects on entities like public radio and television.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and lobbyists from the government and the private sector should work to counteract the devastating effects that many of these proposals would have on the Island, which is already tied to a severe fiscal plan.
For example, the presidential proposal eliminates the entire Legal Services Corporation budget, which would exterminate Puerto Rico Legal Services, an organization that provides assistance to people with limited resources.
But the cutbacks go far beyond this. In healthcare, 16.2% of the current allocations would be lost, and in the environmental field, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would suffer a 31.4% reduction of its budget.
There would also be fewer funds for agriculture, commerce, public housing, small businesses, roads, and employment in the United States. Consequently, the allocations and federal resources received in Puerto Rico would be substantially reduced as well.
Specifically in the healthcare area, Puerto Rico is already facing the imminent depletion of Obamacare funds, which in recent years have represented close to half the cost of the healthcare reform that serves around 1.5 million people. An additional reduction in the federal healthcare budget would make us hit rock bottom.
The 31% reduction projected for the EPA threatens the maintenance of our protected wetlands and forests, which help avoid the deterioration of our air and waters.
We must add the severe threat of disappearance hovering over the public radio and television, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, which helps promote culture. Although the allocations in this area represent a fraction of the United States budget, Trump’s proposal sends a direct message about his clash with the media and the cultural sector.
You only need to compare the $148-million budget of the National Endowment for the Arts with the $183 million assigned to the security of Trump Tower, the residential and commercial complex built by Trump on New York’s Fifth Avenue where his family keeps primary residence.
The budget Trump wants Congress to approve for the next federal fiscal year emphasizes the area of defense, whose importance cannot be argued. The danger lies in Trump’s inclination for replacing diplomacy with weapons, as implied by the proposed 31% cut to the State Department, specifically to international assistance and organizations like the United Nations—even though the proposal was immediately rejected by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
The UN would see a reduction in the funds destined to climate change programs—which is consistent with Trump’s environmental policies—and a reduction in allocations for peace missions and operating costs.
In contrast, defense funding would go up by 10%, national security by 6%, and the Department of Veterans Affai rs by an additional 10%. Also, $1.5 billion would be allocated to begin the construction of the wall between the United States and Mexico.
Trump’s budget bill, which is expected to be formally introduced in May, foreshadows a Congressional battle against both the Democrats and the Republicans who will decide on the distribution of funds.
We must make sure that our needs and rights are taken into account when the time comes to make decisions.
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