Recent reports deconstructing Trump’s newly proposed budget are tremendously number-heavy, outlining percentage cuts and dollar amounts to the massive slashes affecting nearly 20 independent organizations across the country.
But these abstract descriptions may not actually be very effective in fully conveying the brutal consequences of these spending cuts. We need to hear from Americans who will, or have already suffered from Trump’s impending budget revisions.
While it may be an instinct for government-savvy journalists to spout off percentages about the 20 or 30 percent decreases in government spending on the Department of Labor or Department of State, respectively, more accessible descriptions such as anecdotes or comparisons may be more effective in really spelling out what these cuts would mean for the Americans who voted Trump and his priorities into the White House.
Many of the various articles that outline the budget plan offer “here’s what you need to know,” but don’t actually tell a lot of Americans what they need to know. In fact, the budget is most detrimental for the working and middle class Americans who voted for Trump in the first place under the assumption that his actions as president would prioritize their wellbeing.
The Morning Edition of NPR has recently taken to talking with some of the low-income people who rely on many of the government programs Trump has on the chopping block.
NPR interviewed Sheryl Braxton in New York City, who relies on the city’s public housing program. Braxton explained at a local hearing this week that her community needs reinvestment, not less funding as Trump proposed through his massive cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides aid to more than 4 million families.
“We have more mold issues, garbage issues, a water issue with lead, and it’s really bad,” Braxton explained. She’s dumbfounded that the administration wants to roll back spending that could address unlivable conditions that affect a community of predominantly senior citizens and persons with disabilities who rely on these housing units.
Farmers are concerned about major cuts to the Department of Agriculture as well as an increase in xenophobic anxieties that could drastically compromise immigrant-heavy labor forces on farms.
Jeff Marchini and others are among many Californian farmers who backed Trump through his election, hoping his presidency would reduce regulations and taxes. The rude awakening came when Trump made what many farmers presumed to be a bluff reality with executive orders upending immigration laws in an effort to really crack down on illegal immigration.
Marchini has expressed considerable anxiety about impending cuts to his resources. He and many other farmers in the Central Valley fear the “crippling” effects of Trump’s anti-immigration policies that siphon money from other government programs in order to weed out illegal workers and prevent immigrants from coming to America in the first place.
In reality, breakdowns of Trump’s budget are grim. Among many other disastrous ideas, the plan proposes to cut the Environmental Protection Agency by about 30 percent, the Department of Agriculture by roughly 20 percent and the Department of Education and Department of Housing and Urban Development by about 13 percent, respectively. Many reports go on to say what specific programs within these departments will be compromised or even eliminated.
Though these numbers are alarming for some readers, they insufficiently describe the stakes these cuts pose for those Americans who are not well-versed in the complex issues of government spending or are unsure about the actual purpose of some of these organizations.
Media studies experts report that conservative Americans historically tend to respond more strongly to anecdotal news coverage, and attribute social phenomena to individual choices. For example, more moderate and conservative Americans would attribute crime waves to poor decision-making by individuals rather than systemic issues surrounding perpetrators of crime. Alternatively, liberals are more aptly persuaded by trends and attribute these to institutions and systems.
Some reports have begun giving voices to the most vulnerable Americans under Trump’s presidency. For those who have been able to take the time and dissect the proposal, many do not see themselves reflected in Trump’s blueprint for America.
Journalists have an obligation to put faces and names to the actual victims of Trump’s plan instead of simply using figures and quotes by higher-ups in what seem like abstract government programs. These stories and specific breakdowns of the budget’s consequences to real life people will likely turn out to be far more relatable for most Americans outside highly educated and or elite circles.
The reality is that the communities that voted for Trump continue to be blindsided by decisions made by powerful people in Washington, the very swamp Trump promised to “drain.” And while Trump claimed to be a champion for those who have felt their voices being neglected, these very communities are directly victimized by his budget proposal.
Of course, the budget plan is currently only a proposal, an opening bid which will be subject to national debate and alterations in the coming months. But deliberation about the proposal cannot be fair if those whom the budget most directly and largely affects are not being heard.
If Americans are to stay informed and vigilant throughout this presidency and under future administrations, the media needs to prioritize the accessibility of reports meant to both advise readers about what is going on in the nation’s capital and note if and how they will be in the line of fire.