During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump repeated his intention to donate his presidential salary to charity. Which charity he did not stipulate. However, Trump recently proposed deep budget cuts impacting many charities, including the much loved Meals On Wheels organization. This past Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer caused quite a stir during a press briefing.
“The president’s intention right now is to donate his salary at the end of the year,” Spicer said. “And he has kindly asked that you all help determine where that goes. The way that we can avoid scrutiny is to let the press corps determine where it should go.”
“President Donald J. Trump said he will donate his salary,” Chris posted on Facebook. “How about Meals on Wheels? The President makes $400K per year. Assuming normal deductions for taxes, that leaves $271,749.37 per year. He can donate 38,000 meals per year, or 152,000 meals for the elderly, during his presidency.”
Chris even went so far as to create a White House Petition requesting that President Trump consider the idea.
Many are calling the proposed defunding of Meals On Wheels “fake news,” because the national organization only derives 3.3% of its annual income from government grants. However, as USA Today explains, “Trump’s budget calls for the elimination of one program that some of the nation’s 5,000 Meals on Wheels groups rely on: Community development block grants, a $3 billion program that started in the Ford administration to give states and cities more flexibility in how they combat poverty.”
Consequently, the impact of these proposed budget cuts is likely to vary from city to city, regardless of how it impacts the national organization. For example, Houston’s Meals On Wheels is coordinated by Interfaith Ministries, which derives over 60% of its annual income from government contracts. It is unclear whether President Trump’s proposed budget cuts would include Houston Interfaith Ministries, but we are reaching out to them for comment.
Today we talked to Chris Tritico regarding his concern for Meals On Wheels, and President Trump’s proposed budget cuts. Here is our interview:
Q. FOX News is reporting that Government Grants only make up $248,347 (3.3%) of Meals On Wheels funding. However, our local Meals On Wheels is a project of Interfaith Ministries, which reported $11,378,167 from Government Contracts for 2016. Can you help us understand the impact a government defunding of Meals On Wheels would have on Houston communities?
A. I believe the Fox story is essentially correct in that Meals on Wheels gets only about 3.3% of its overall funding from the government. Charities operate on tight budgets and don’t have a lot of sway. The program will, assuming this budget goes through as offered, have to make up that difference in new funding sources or scale back it’s operation.
Q. This is much more complex than a money issue too. People are taking this proposed defunding personally. Can you explain why Meals On Wheels means so much to so many?
A. For years people in and out of politics have talked big talk about reining in big government spending. No one really ever did it. In fact it’s not really happening now. This is just a rededication of resources. However, the point is the same. Before Donald Trump, no one ever really followed through on the promise to make real cuts. Donald Trump came through, not with a surgeons scalpel, rather with a hack saw and made deep cuts to almost everything. Now those who said they were in favor of cutting the pork are faced with the reality that their favorite piece of the pie is actually part of the pork. It’s gut check time.
Add to this the complete inability of this administration to tread lightly on any issue. They have one speed: roll over everyone and everything. When White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney discussed this issue in his press conference, his attempt to defend the deep budget cuts did more to cause people to take offense than it did to ease the tension. His statement; “Meals on Wheels sounds great, we’re not going to spend [money] on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people,” was offensive. Meals On Wheels serves our elderly; the people who have already given, who have already done what our country asked of them. These people can’t leave their home and cannot buy food. For many, Meals On Wheels deliveries is the only human interaction they will get. To the Trump administration, they want to show compassion to the taxpayer. This offended me when it was said in conjunction with Meals on Wheels.
This is one of the most compassionate organizations I know of. I cannot think any greater contrast than this. That is why so many were so outraged by the comparison.
Q. You created a White House Petition that President Trump donate his presidential salary to Meals On Wheels. Besides potential funding for the organization, what do you hope this Petition accomplishes?
A. President Trump promised before and after the election that he would donate his salary to charity. He has not done so. Last week Sean Spicer said he would do so at the end of the year and wanted the media to make suggestions. Well, I’m in the media. I think he could show a little of that compassion that they are talking about by giving his salary to Meals on Wheels. His salary over the four years he is in office he can donate 152,000 meals to elderly people. That’s a good start at replacing that which his budget cutting to build a wall took away.
In reality, it is my hope to shed light on the plight of good organizations like Meals On Wheels that are about to get hit very hard by what appears to be a Republican effort to shift spending to the military and the building of the border wall and away from programs like Meals On Wheels.
We should never turn our back on those who got us where we are. It seems to me that our elderly population is sometimes forgotten and left behind because their voices are not strong any longer.
Texans have mixed feelings about the budget cuts. There is much confusion over what it all means, and how such cuts would impact local charities and the elderly. Here is some of the feedback we’ve received from our readers:
“I think if conservatives want to make the case that we don’t need big government to take care of our elderly or poor, this is a great place to start to prove it.”— Felicia Winfrey Cravens, Founder of Houston Tea Party & Writer for Free Radical Network
“The Bible charges the Church with caring for the disadvantaged, not the government. It is high time to cut down on Big Government and for the Church to move beyond its four walls. It’s time to stop putting Starbucks in churches and spending money on lavish facilities and for churches to spend that money on giving to the poor. It’s time for churches to stop having fun, feel-good events that do little to promote the Gospel and spend its time and money on doing prison ministry, Meals On Wheels, and the like. We have a generation of Christians who feel the need to be pampered within the walls of the Church and pay little mind to the world going on outside of it.” — Katie Kandagor, San Antonio
“Almost every budget line item has some justifying cause to which it is attached. The reality that 1% of those funds go to a valid issue can’t permit anyone to ignore the fact that 100% of it is outside the prescribed function of government.” — Craig Burkholder, Houston
“Cities like Houston need to back off and allow the churches to support interfaith ministries if that is the case. Issue is today that the liberals that run Cities like Houston are being part of the problem not the solution.” — Greg Hubbard, Montgomery
“It’s sad. So many home-bound seniors and seniors who can’t drive or have anyone to help care for them depend on getting their next meal from them. I see this just about every day at work since I work for Montgomery County Food Bank. It’s amazing how many hungry people there are.” – Julie Church, Porter