Aug. 19, The Houston Chronicle on a rule change from the Trump Administration that would deny legal status to any immigrants that U.S. officials think are likely to apply for government assistance:
Lyndon Johnson had his War on Poverty; Donald Trump has declared war on the impoverished themselves.
The president’s latest salvo might have been fired at immigrants, but it sent a clear message to anyone struggling to make ends meet in America that the current occupant of the White House would prefer you look elsewhere for help.
The Trump administration last week issued a revised rule that would deny legal status to any immigrants U.S. officials think are likely to apply for government assistance such as food stamps or subsidized housing.
Kenneth Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the new “green card” rule would help ensure immigrants allowed to stay in this country “can stand on their own two feet” and won’t become a drain on society.
That seemingly innocuous comment was meant to assure taxpayers the president is only protecting their interests, but it has a more sinister connotation when placed in context with other moves by this administration to limit aid to the poor.
It smacks of the same rhetoric that decades ago spawned the “welfare queen” myth that poor women living in ghetto neighborhoods were having babies to get a monthly check instead of getting a job.
Trump declared his war on the poor with an executive order issued April 10, 2018, titled “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.” Call it his manifesto.
Trump’s document admitted welfare reform under Bill Clinton in 1996 included a work requirement but insisted the system “still traps many recipients, especially children, in poverty and is in need of further reform.”
It’s true that too many Americans are poor, about 40 million, and too many of the poor are children, about 13 million. But blaming temporary assistance programs for persistent poverty is an elitist trope and a gross distortion of reality.
Many poor families are working multiple jobs and still need help. Instead of extending a hand, Trump is making their situation more difficult.
He’s figured out it’s easier to bypass Congress, especially with Democrats controlling the House, and get subservient department heads to make rule changes like the revised green card requirements.
The Department of Agriculture, for example, is making a rule change that would eliminate food stamp benefits for 3.1 million Americans.
It doesn’t matter that 11 million people have left the food stamp rolls since its post-recession peak of 47 million. Trump wants more people off food stamps. Instead of addressing the reasons so many families experience hunger and periods of food insecurity, he is callously cutting off a lifeline many use as a last resort.
The USDA rule change says if a family of four earns $32,640 a year — 130 percent above the federal poverty level — and has more than $2,250 in the bank, it will no longer qualify for food stamp aid of about $1.40 per person per meal.
You can either save money for emergencies or eat. Not both.
Meanwhile, Department of Housing and Urban Development rule changes could hurt poor people looking for affordable housing. Secretary Ben Carson has decided HUD will no longer enforce an Obama administration rule that required more than 1,200 municipalities to file desegregation plans or risk losing federal housing funds.
HUD officials said it was taking too much time to analyze the desegregation plans, which frequently were rejected for being incomplete or inconsistent with civil rights laws. Advocates for fair housing said that was exactly why HUD should enforce the rule, but Carson acted like he didn’t hear them.
Trump’s enfeebling of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is another disservice to the poor. The CFPB was created in 2011, in part, to advocate for Americans who suffered from the predatory loan practices that helped send this nation into crippling recession.
That wasn’t the mission Trump gave Mick Mulvaney when he appointed him CFPB’s interim director in 2017. The former South Carolina congressman promptly ordered a hiring freeze, put new enforcement cases on hold and sent the Federal Reserve, which funds the agency, a budget request for zero dollars.
“Elections have consequences at every agency,” Mulvaney told reporters. He was replaced last year by another Trump acolyte, Kathy Kraninger, who has stayed the course Mulvaney set.
So, too, has Trump stayed on course, subversively sticking it to the poor through rule changes that too often escape public scrutiny even as he makes speeches declaring his affection for the common man.
Comparisons of Trump with other familiar names in history have been made. How about P.T. Barnum? He also knew how to put on a good show filled with illusions and sleights of hand.