DNC Head Calls Trump Budget Plan “Unconscionable”

March 16, 2017, 6:51 PM UTC
US Labor Secretary Tom Perez speaks as President Barack Obama listens during a town hall meeting at the Summit on Worker Voice at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Nicholas Kamm — AFP/Getty Images

Newly elected chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez, and former Labor Secretary, has some tough criticisms of the Donald Trump’s budget proposal released Thursday.

In an interview with Fortune, Mr. Perez, who has said he wants to be President Trump’s “worst nightmare,” says the budget blueprint shows Trump is “looking out for his friends on Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.”

Perez said he is particularly troubled by the proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the way Trump’s proposals could adversely impact American workers.

“Budgets are moral documents,” he said. “They reflect the values of any government and when you’re compromising clean air, clean water, and lead, you’re making a statement about communities you don’t care about.

President Trump’s proposal calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, paid for by cuts in other discretionary non-defense spending. Budgets for the EPA, as well as the departments of State, Agriculture and Labor would each be slashed more than 20%.

Perez previously served for three years as the Secretary of Labor under President Barack Obama’s administration, and had some particularly strong feelings about the slash to the agency he once managed, calling it “unconscionable” for Trump to run on a platform of helping workers and then slash investments in job training.

“When you cut investments in worker training, you’re cutting investments in the middle class,” Perez said.

President Trump has proposed cutting the Department of Labor’s budget by $2.5 billion, or 21%. That cut includes reductions in job training programs.

A program serving low-income unemployed seniors, the Senior Community Service Employment Program, would be completely eliminated, and grants for job training would be decreased, shifting the funding burden for these programs to states, localities, and employers.

At the same time, the proposal would expand one-on-one interviews of the unemployed in an effort to reduce improper and fraudulent unemployment benefit payments.

While the proposal lacks further details on the Department of Labor’s other programs, Perez raised concerns that the budget cuts will weaken the agency’s ability to enforce labor laws. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division claims to have recovered nearly $1.6 billion in back wages for more than 1.7 million workers since 2009.

“It is a time-honored practice of right wing governments to starve funding for enforcement,” Perez said. “It’s imperative for our enforcement agencies to be a credible threat. There are massive violations of wage and hour laws out there—we need to be those officers on the beat.”

Mr. Perez also said cuts to civil servant jobs may disproportionately affect minorities and women. The public sector has long been thought of as a place where minorities and women could get a toe-hold into middle class jobs, and perhaps face less discrimination than in the private sector.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics estimates Trump’s budget proposal could lead to the loss of 100,000 to 200,000 civilian government jobs.

“Federal government has been a gateway to the middle class for people of color for generations,” Perez said. “I am proud of our diversity, and when you attack the federal workforce you are having significant impact on women — many of whom are single moms working to support their family – and you’re having a significant impact on communities of color.”

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