Heartless budget features cuts to AIDS research and other programs

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Andrew Harnik, AP.

by Rob Howard
Political Columnist

When Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, tries to explain President Trump’s budget “vision” he says things like this: “If I can look you in the eye and say I’m going to take this money from you so I can help this injured vet, I can do that in good conscience.

“I am a lot less comfortable to the point of not wanting to look you in the eye and say, ‘Look, I need to take this money from you to give to this person over here who really isn’t disabled but is getting a disabled benefit or this person over here who is supposed to use the money to go to school but isn’t actually going.”

You have to wonder if he actually believes that he needs to take money for healthcare for the poor, life saving research on infectious diseases and slash environmental protections to give billions to the military. The budget proposal he released to Congress in May answers those questions for him.

It would slash Medicaid by $616 billion over 10 years. That doesn’t include the $800 billion cut to the program planned in the now stalled GOP health plan. Medicaid is the largest source of insurance coverage for people with HIV, estimated to cover more than 40 percent of people with HIV in care, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

People living with HIV are much more likely to qualify for Medicaid based on disability. 68 percent of them used that route to the program.

Speaking of disability, Mulvaney thinks there are a lot of people on disability who could find work. So he wants to cut $72 billion from Social Security disability payments. He said forcing them off disability “is how you can help people take charge of their own lives again.”

The worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS has shown remarkable success, according to a United Nations report, “The scales have tipped for the first time in the fight against AIDS as more than half of all people living with the HIV virus now have access to treatment, while AIDS-related deaths have nearly halved since 2005.”

The United States spends more than $6 billion annually on HIV programs worldwide. About 11.5 million people who are infected are provided antiretroviral drugs. Trump’s budget proposal slashes those programs by $1.1 billion.

Mulvaney said, "The president said specifically hundreds of times...'I'm going to spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home'. And that's exactly what we're doing with this budget."

Well, not so fast Mick. The National Institutes of Health will see cuts of nearly $6 billion, including a $575 million cut to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That program is involved in a broad range of diseases including AIDS. It doesn’t sound like you are planning to spend more on “people back home.”

Other people back home include the millions, primarily lower income women, who get their health care from Planned Parenthood. The budget bars Planned Parenthood from not only Medicaid funding, but from any other federal program.

Only Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs get increases. The $52.3 billion planned for defense is offset by major cuts to every other federal department, curtailing or eliminating social programs on which millions of Americans rely.

Mick Mulvaney and President Trump are heartless in putting forth a budget that affects those millions. Mulvaney said, “We’re not going to measure compassion by the amount of money that we spend, but by the number of people that we help.”

It is clear that by that measure, Congress should reject the Trump proposals totally and work out their own plan – one that actually will help people.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – September 7, 2017 @ 7:15 a.m. CDT.