Some of President Donald Trump’s planned budget cuts appear to be targeted more at undercutting Democratic priorities than at shrinking the national debt.
A host of planned funding cuts to federal agencies, reported last week by The Hill, are part of the Trump administration’s desire to eliminate roughly $10.5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years — nearly all of the federal government’s discretionary spending.
Yet Trump has vowed not to cut entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security, and promised to beef up military spending, which represents the lion’s share of federal spending — making it hard for him to do more than chip away at the margins of the nearly $20 trillion national debt.
What, then, would the reported cuts accomplish? The answer appears to be defunding a number of projects seen as liberal darlings — including groups aimed at preserving and supporting the environment, civil rights protections, the arts, minority-owned businesses, and public broadcasting.
To put this in context: The total cost, per American, of the following 17 programs said to be on the chopping block is $22.36 per year– of which more than a third comes from a single clean-energy program. By contrast, housing subsidies, like the mortgage interest deduction, which are disproportionately used by the wealthy, cost $296.29 per American.
Here’s a list of the various federal agencies reportedly on the chopping block, along with some of their key initiatives — and some of the jobs supported.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Republicans have long been known to want to kill government funding for Big Bird. But the CPB is more than Sesame Street.
For instance, the CPB is backing a program through Wisconsin Public Television called “Veterans Coming Home” — which includes a series depicting what some of the 2.5 million veterans endure as they reenter society, but also funds services, such as job fairs, for returning vets.
National Endowment for the Arts
- Budget: $150 million
- Cost per American: $0.46
The NEA supports art, and those who make it, across the country. Eliminating funding would kill hundreds of programs, like Art 365, which grants five Oklahoma artists $12,000 to support their work. Past grantees photographed “remote portions of our National Parks and wilderness areas,” and used aerial photography to look at churchgoing demographics in Oklahoma.
National Endowment for the Humanities
- Budget: $150 million
- Cost per American: $0.46
The NEH offers research funding to institutions like museums, colleges, and libraries. The agency has backed 16 Pulitzer winners and Ken Burns’ The Civil War series, among other notable endeavors. One recent grantee is Michael Bernath, an associate professor at the University of Miami, who received $6,000 for his project “In a Land of Strangers: Northern Teachers in the Old South and the Emergence of American Sectional Identity, 1790-1865.”
Minority Business Development Agency
- Budget: $36 million
- Cost per American: $0.11
This federal agency helps minority-owned businesses “with the capital, contracts, and markets they need to grow,” according to its website. The agency also advocates and promotes “minority-owned business with elected officials, policy makers, and business leaders.”
The MBDA says it helped a minority-owned construction company in Phoenix, for instance, secure $60 million in loans — which allowed the company to expand operations and hire more employees.
Economic Development Administration
- Budget: $215 million
- Cost per American: $0.66
The EDA supports “distressed communities with their infrastructure needs that will help drive regional growth,” promotes “economic development projects that spur entrepreneurship and innovation at the regional level,” and “provides direct technical assistance to firms negatively impacted by global trade.”
What does this mean? Seven years ago, the EDA gave a $2 million grant to the Pacific Northwest Diabetes Institute to buy new scientific equipment, in turn providing lab space that would support other high-tech companies in the area. The EDA says the grant ended up creating 184 jobs, saving another 110, and attracting another $500,000 in private investment.
International Trade Administration
- Budget: $521 million
- Cost per American: $1.60
The ITA helps American businesses sell more products to overseas markets. One beneficiary was the Iron Fist Brewing Company, located in Vista, California. A representative of the San Diego U.S. Export Assistance Center connected with the brewery at a convention in 2013, and helped them export to Australia, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, among others. Iron Fist hired two more employees thanks to new export revenue, the ITA reports.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership
- Budget: $142 million
- Cost per American: $0.43
This is a so-called public-private partnership that helps small to medium-size manufacturers become more efficient, build new products, and improve sales and marketing techniques. Missoula, Mont.-based organic soap wholesaler Botanie used their local MEP affiliate to help keep pace with their growing business — by, for instance, using more sophisticated technologies to track inventory. The MEP says it helped Botanie save $280,000 and retain six jobs.
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
- Budget: $286 million
- Cost per American: $0.88
The majority of COPS’ annual budget is dedicated to hiring more police personnel to help local communities improve their policing. Last October, the Justice Department announced $119 million in grant funding for 184 law enforcement agencies across the country — resulting in 900 created or saved jobs, the office reports. Among the recipients was the Dallas Police Department, which had lost five officers in an ambush a few months earlier; it got $3.1 million to hire 25 officers.
Office of Violence Against Women
- Budget: $480 million
- Cost per American: $1.48
The OVW runs 25 grant programs created through the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, in an effort to reduce domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence. The police department and city government of Andalusia, Ala., for instance, received a $450,000 grant over three years that will cover domestic violence training for officers as well as the hiring of three additional police officers.
Legal Services Corporation
- Budget: $503 million
- Cost per American: $1.55
The LSC helps poor Americans afford legal services, currently funding “134 independent legal aid organizations with more than 800 offices” in the U.S. For instance, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society — which served nearly 33,000 people in 2015, including about 15,000 children — received $3.8 million last year, supporting 109 positions. Two-thirds of clients served were African-Americans.
Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department
- Budget: $156 million
- Cost per American: $0.48
The Civil Rights Division, a part of the Justice Department that employs 750 positions, works to fight discrimination and protect Americans’ voting rights. Recently a Civil Rights Division investigation of the Chicago Police Department found that “CPD officers’ practices unnecessarily endanger themselves and result in unnecessary and avoidable uses of force.” The city of Chicago and the Justice Department reached an agreement to improve the city’s policing practices.
Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department
- Budget: $123 million
- Cost per American: $0.38
The ENRD brings cases against those who break pollution-related laws. In one recent case, the division levied a $160,000 penalty against Iowa’s Meadowvale Dairy for violating the Clean Water Act.
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
- Budget: Self-sustaining
- Cost per American: $0
Using both loans and loan guarantees, OPIC works to help businesses with annual revenues below $400 million invest in “large scale” operations, such as airports and water systems. “Over the past five years, 71 percent of OPIC projects were in partnership with U.S. small businesses, accounting for over $600 million annually in U.S. exports,” according to the State Department. One recent OPIC effort, for instance, provided an $87 million, 17-year loan, to a U.S. company, Al Tamweel Al Saree, to extend loans to micro and small-sized Iraqi businesses.
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- U.S. Funding: Estimated $10 million
- Cost per American: $0.03
Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability
- Budget: $262 million
- Cost per American: $0.81
Created after the 2003 blackout left nearly 50 million Americans and Canadians without power, the OE invests in the electric grid to make it more modern, reliable and secure. The agency recently released a comprehensive report on how America can improve energy allocation.
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
- Budget: $2.9 billion
- Cost per American: $8.95
The EERE works “to create and sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy.” What does that look like? In one recent demonstration project, the EERE helped a South Carolina-based BMW plant use bio-methane gas from a nearby landfill to power some forklifts.
Office of Fossil Energy
- Budget: $878 million
- Cost per American: $2.71
With projects like the development of clean coal technology, this office works to reduce the carbon footprint of fossil fuels. Its Petra Nova project, based in Thompsons, Texas, is now “the world’s largest post-combustion carbon-capture system.” Petra Nova received $190 million from the Department of Energy, and has the potential to capture “1.6 million tons of CO2 per year from an existing coal-fired power plant.”