- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2018


President Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget forces hard choices on many Americans.

Bert and Ernie or welfare reform? Defeating public health crises or a wall to deter illegal entry to the U.S.? Infrastructure jobs for ex-felons or housing vouchers for veterans?

You can parse the politics and rhetoric any which way you choose, and side with the Democrats because you’re a blue blood. It really doesn’t matter, because the bottom line remains unchanged.

The United States has been robbing Peter to pay Paul, and again it looks like we’re going to be unable to rein in Washington, let alone drain the swamp. Our best option at this fork in the road is to focus on family.

Consider homeless veterans. In 2016, only 350 were sleeping outdoors in the nation’s capital, and in 2017 that number had nearly doubled to 672. In 2015, 10.5 percent of D.C. veterans lived in poverty. In 2016, the Census Bureau reported that 14.1 percent of the District’s 28,400 veterans reported living in poverty.

No family? No home? Not a single relative or close friend to offer an abode?

Sad, is it not, that we count on our military keep us safe but then turn our backs on them once they’re unable to pounce like G.I. Joe or come home to learn they have no home at all? Soldiers of misfortune for sure.

The Trump budget rings in at $4.38 trillion with yuuuge increases for the military and border security. And like the infrastructure proposal, that means jobs are on the horizon.

As White House correspondent Dave Boyer reported, the administration is requesting $85.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, up from $77.7 billion in fiscal 2017, for medical care, counseling, homelessness programs and other services. The VA’s current budget is about $186 billion.

As expected, the spending framework includes a cautionary snapshot.

“The budget imposes a fiscal discipline on Washington spending that many in today’s political climate reject, yet which remains more important than ever,” Mr. Boyer quoted the Office of Management and Budget as saying. “It includes an aggressive set of spending reforms that cut deficits by $3 trillion over 10 years, reducing debt as a percentage of GDP and improving our long-term fiscal sustainability.”

Discipline, like beauty, is in eye of the beholder, and fiscal discipline is indeed a rare commodity in Washington, where wells run dry but swamps, like public coffers, never do.

What we can do until the 2020 presidential election, though, is reconfigure what it means to be family.

It may mean something as simple as allowing Cousin Aubrey, who returned from Afghanistan with PTSD, living in what used to be your exercise room until he gets himself together.

And your daughter who stomped out the door after graduate school with a ton of debt? Hand over the basement and reaffirm parameters.

The Trump administration is reaffirming parameters, too, allowing public housing agencies and property owners the option to implement minimum work requirements. In fact, Kentucky and Indiana are already aboard, having had their applications already approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The White House also wants to promote work in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, and the unemployment insurance program.

Work requirements also were part of the Clinton-era welfare reform. Then, as now, neither the White House nor Congress should water-down language that allows butts on the couch to “pretend” they’re hard at work by logging onto a jobs-program work site or signing a sheet of paper that says “I showed up for class.”

As for infrastructure jobs, hard labor for hard heads (and ex-felons) could prove to be a productive endeavor. Many of the core jobs programs in the 1960s and ‘70s sprung from people taking care of something and someone, and buildings, freeways and bridges to move people about.

The president has opened the door to the solution side of our cultural and fiscal dilemma. Democrats and the downtrodden should at least cross the threshold to see what’s on the other side — including spending cuts.

Bashing Republicans and the Trump budget gets you no where.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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