Point of View: Marching Forward – By Diane Yentel, NLIHC President and CEO

Photo: Diane Yentel, NLIHC President and CEOWhat a remarkable week. From rumors on Capitol Hill that the president plans to propose a draconian budget that would essentially eliminate nearly all non-defense discretionary and most mandatory federal spending, to his inaugural address pledging an end to “this American carnage” with an isolationist America First policy, to one of the largest collective protest marches in U.S. history.

Early last week, rumors began circulating that a team in the incoming White House was drafting its first budget request – without any input from federal agencies - based off of a Heritage Foundation blueprint and Republican Study Committee (RSC) plan to eliminate $10.5 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years. Although the RSC budget was soundly defeated with a vote of 292-135 in the House in 2015, one of its biggest supporters was Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC). Mr. Mulvaney was recently nominated to lead President Trump's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the department that produces the President’s budget request to Congress.

In his inaugural address on Friday, President Donald Trump fully embraced the dark, dystopian version of America that he previewed throughout his campaign, while pledging to focus all his efforts on helping the “forgotten” middle class. Yet, within hours of being sworn in, President Trump rolled back a final action of the Obama Administration which would have lowered Federal Housing Agency (FHA) premium insurance for millions of middle class homeowners. He also signed an executive order advancing the repeal of healthcare benefits for millions of middle and low income people.

The next day, women led millions of protesters throughout the country and around the world. Filling the streets of big cities and small towns, Women’s March participants pledged to resist the harmful policies that President Trump has committed to implement. Together, these were among the largest protests in the history of the U.S. 

From all the events of last week, a few things are clear:

  • A team in President Trump's White House hopes to achieve severe cuts to federal spending, even without any input from its own cabinet. This tells us both that the threats of devastating cuts to key affordable housing and other anti-poverty programs are very real, and that the “planned chaos” of President Trump's team is also beginning to play out. Because of the multiple power centers Mr. Trump has created, it is difficult to discern who is making the decisions that matter and what, if anything, about the process for decision making will change when a cabinet is in place. Representative Mick Mulvaney’s confirmation hearings for his nomination to direct OMB are tomorrow. If confirmed, we can expect more details on the proposed cuts to federal spending by the end of February, when the Administration is expected to produce a spending ‘blueprint’ in lieu of a full budget proposal.
  • We should expect a relentless stream of Executive Orders (EOs), proposed legislation, and other policies to roll back progress on immigration, civil rights, and health care and to fundamentally undermine safety net programs. More EOs are expected this week related to immigration policy, potentially including new "extreme vetting" of immigrants and reduced federal funding for sanctuary cities. There will be multiple EOs in the coming days and weeks rolling back environmental regulations and there may be some related to federal housing programs. 
  • A powerful and vocal movement of change and resistance exists and is growing. Millions of people took to the streets throughout the U.S. and around the world on Saturday to reject racism, bigotry, misogyny and homophobia and to embrace equity, inclusion and diversity. The number of people that turned out for the Women’s March stunned even its organizers. If the March can be converted into an ongoing movement of civic engagement, it promises a tremendous opportunity for stopping harmful actions and policies from being implemented. We must all work to ensure that the energy and action of the marchers, and millions more, are sustained and harnessed through action in the coming days, months and years. 

The first post-march action of the Women’s March is to send a postcard to your members of Congress on issues that matter to you. I’ve already written mine – I encourage all NLIHC members and partners to participate, urging members of Congress to invest in expanding affordable housing solutions like the national Housing Trust Fund and rental assistance to ensure that the lowest income people have decent, safe, accessible homes.

Then, if you’re not already a member of NLIHC, please consider joining at: http://nlihc.org/membership. Our members are our strength. Now, more than ever, we rely on your support to continue progress towards ending homelessness and housing poverty, once and for all.

We have our work cut out for us, but the possibilities in this moment for unity and progress are exhilarating. We must not shrink from the challenge, we can’t become overwhelmed or look away. Instead we must work together to protect our democracy and the programs and policies our country needs to sustain and advance equity and justice. We are the ones we've been waiting for - and we're just getting started.