While Donald Trump is grabbing headlines for his scandals, his presidency is quietly targeting government programs on which millennials rely.
President Trump's name is in the headlines constantly due to a dizzying number of scandals and self-inflicted wounds. In place of the media honeymoon and policy discussions that typically accompany a new presidency, we see near-daily revelations about the Administration's incompetence and propensity for scandal. In times like these, it is tempting to overlook the sometimes boring policy proposals coming out of the White House and Congress. Nonetheless, against the grain, the Trump Administration is doing one thing with ruthless efficiency: targeting programs that primarily benefit millennials and other young people.
Millennials supported Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign by the millions, largely due to his progressive stances on college tuition and student debt issues. Flashing forward to 2017, the Trump Administration's positions on student debt are atrocious. Proposals coming out of the Department of Education would halve federal work study funding, eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program entirely, and cut an additional $10.6 billion from various other education initiatives. It is hard to imagine a more cruel set of policies for millennials. If approved, these policies will impact a generation of Americans already saddled with unprecedented levels of education-related debt.
Ending the PSLF program would be especially cruel. Hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, government employees, and nonprofit workers have already begun pursuing their education and their careers on the assumption that they will qualify for its benefits. The deal was that the federal government would forgive student loan debt (after 10 years of on-time payments) for Americans in lower-paying occupations that benefit the public. Ironically, it may be the federal government that ultimately fails to live up to their end of the bargain.
Halving federal work study funding would also be an enormous blow to students who struggle to support themselves while in college. I held two jobs, one of which received financial support from the federal work study program, during much of my time as an undergraduate student. Despite the fact that I often worked more than full-time, on top of schoolwork, the income from these two jobs was barely sufficient to support a frugal student living away from home. After graduation, the savings I was able to build were crucial to keeping myself afloat until long-term career opportunities materialized.
Frankly, I am relatively privileged. I received federally-subsidized student loans, which the White House's proposal would gradually eliminate. I had time to work while in school, was able to study abroad, and had the benefit of a supportive family. Nonetheless, I qualified for federal aid and am all the better for it. My life would likely be very different without that support, to say nothing of students in far worse circumstances than myself.
For millions of students struggling to make enough money to stay in school, this is another blow that could push them over the edge. Republicans in the White House and in Congress like to talk about Americans working hard to improve their circumstances, but these cuts punish self-improvement. Today, you can pursue a modest education and take on a professional occupation that benefits your community. At its heart, the PSLF program is conservative in its philosophy. It was first signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush. Without it, how many Americans will fall into bankruptcy? How many teachers, police officers, and other public servants will we lose, now and in the future?
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration's assault on millennials does not end with student debt. The White House has also targeted rental assistance, whose recipients are largely young millennials of color. They've proposed shrinking the Jobs Corps, which has provided vocational training to under-served young people since the Johnson Administration. President Trump's budget would halve Medicaid funding, which supports half of all pregnancies in some states. The areas of Social Security that are slated for cuts, such as disability insurance, disproportionately benefit millennials.
The damage that President Trump's proposals would do to millennials is reprehensible by itself. However, his Administration's simultaneous handouts to the ultra-rich make these cuts all the more infuriating. While they are stripping education-related funding, this White House is proposing to give trillions of dollars in tax cuts to the highest-earning households. This may well be the economic reality that Speaker Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans wanted when they threw their support behind President Trump's election. It is up to us to deny them that reality. It is time to start calling out the Administration for what it is: a scheme to benefit the very wealthiest among us on the backs of America's millennials.