Thursday, March 16, 2017

No more streetcars to nowhere

The Trump budget proposal is terrifying
WASHINGTON — President Trump will send a budget to Congress on Thursday that sharply reorders the nation’s priorities by spending billions of dollars on defending the southern border and bolstering the Pentagon while severely cutting funds for foreign aid, poverty programs and the environment.
Trump proposes to cut EPA by 31%, Health and Human Services by 18%, eliminate entirely the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and end public broadcasting. Those are just the highlights.  If nothing else the cuts would mean massive layoffs under a Presidency that has promised 4-6 percent or greater economic growth.  Adding this fiscal anti-stimulus to the similarly depressing monetary policy announced by the Fed this week makes this projection seem even more unlikely.

Locally the budget proposals would hit especially hard. Louisiana's flagging battle against the rigors of climate change and coastal erosion will not be helped by cuts to NOAA. The Community Development Block Grant program which basically paid for the post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans is set to be eliminated.
Trump has proposed cutting the $3 billion community development block grant program entirely. New Orleans initiatives to build affordable housing, mitigate homelessness, fight blight, and subsidize summer employment and recreation activities could all take a hit. The city spent $11.3 million last year through the block grant program. The Trump budget also calls for the elimination of the HOME Partnerships program, which helps with affordable rental housing and homeownership for low-income families. New Orleans spent $2 million last year through that program.
There's more in there that is going to cause severe pain in New Orleans and in cities across the country.  But this is just another consequence of the Democrats' having failed to make a convincing argument against Trump that connected with every day American voters.  Take, for example, New Orleans' experience with the TIGER grants.
Trump wants to eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program, a signature of the Obama administration and a resource for New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in recent years. The TIGER program helped pay for the Loyola Avenue streetcar project and has appropriated additional funding to redo the Canal Street ferry terminal. The budget also eliminates similar grant funding through the Federal Transit Administration to shift construction costs to local governments.
Now TIGER is a great program. Investment in public transit is one of the best things we can do with federal money. But when the neoliberals in charge of putting these funds to use decide to use them on toys for tourists or real estate development gimmicks  like our new streetcar lines and the new ferry terminal, you can start to see how the voters might not be too enthusiastic about defending your corrupt party. Even when the wolves are at the door for all of us.

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