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There’s a saying that budgets are moral documents, in that they reveal moral priorities. Yesterday, Donald Trump released his second proposed budget. And while it’s unlikely to become law, it reveals plenty about his administration’s priorities.
WHAT IT MEANS:
- WaPo: “The White House on Monday offered a $4.4 trillion budget plan that brought into sharp focus the fiscal strains created by the Trump administration and Congress in the past year, revealing how large tax cuts and a new spending agreement are driving up government debt. President Trump’s budget plan included proposals to slash spending on social safety net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, but these changes would still fall far short of balancing the budget and eliminating the deficit, a long-held GOP goal.”
- In other words, they’ve cut taxes so far—and given the military so much—that even by gutting social services, they still can’t come anywhere close to eliminating the deficit, let alone paying off the debt in eight years, which candidate Trump promised to do.
- “The White House projected the deficit would swell to near $1 trillion annually in 2019 and 2020 because of the new tax law and last week’s agreement to add $500 billion in new spending. … [White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney] placed the majority of the blame on Congress, saying lawmakers simply refused to cut spending.”
- NYT: “The White House budget request would add $984 billion to the federal deficit next year, despite proposed cuts to programs like Medicare and food stamps and despite leaner budgets across federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Trump’s budget statement calls deficits the harbingers of a ‘desolate’ future, but the White House plan would add $7 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.”
- WaPo: “The budget that President Trump proposed Monday takes a hard whack at the poorest Americans, slashing billions of dollars from food stamps, public health insurance and federal housing vouchers, while trying to tilt the programs in more conservative directions. … The changes call on lawmakers to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and transform the rest of that program into a system of capped payments to states; convert food assistance into a hybrid of commodity deliveries and traditional cash benefits; and expand requirements that low-income people work to qualify for federal assistance.”
- The AP offers a breakdown of spending cuts: 1) The administration will stop funding the International Space Station in 2025. 2) The budget calls for repealing Obamacare, which would leave millions uninsured. 3) The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, which each receive about $150 million a year, would be eliminated. 4) The EPA’s budget would be cut by more than a third and the Climate Change Research and Partnership Programs would end. 5) Rental-assistance programs would be cut by 11 percent, and funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund would be eliminated. In addition, public-housing tenants would face work requirements. 6) Food assistance would be slashed by 17 percent in 2019 by forcing recipients to receive prepackaged boxes of nonperishable foods in lieu of food stamps. 7) The proposal cuts $500 billion from Medicare. 8) It also cuts the Department of Education by 10 percent while boosting funding for voucher programs.
- NBC: “Trump's budget is also an indelible snapshot, a frozen image of the moment when the federal government abandoned all pretense of balancing its books. That shouldn't be surprising, because Trump and Congress just enacted a spending law that paves the way for an increase of hundreds of billions of dollars in defense and domestic spending on the heels of a $1.5 trillion tax cut.”
- CNN: “Budgets released by presidents, unlike those negotiated by Congress, are more like political fan fiction than modestly crafted, passable agendas. President Donald Trump's budget takes this art form to another level—really, to another universe.” As CNN notes, the budget is also premised on absurdly optimistic growth forecasts for the next decade.
Again, the Trump budget was never intended as a policy tool, but rather a statement of the administration’s priorities—a moral document. So what does yesterday’s release tell us about the administration’s moral principles? Simple: tax cuts for the wealthy and militaristic boosterism are more important than protecting the environment, caring for the poor, and funding education and the arts. They are also more important than even pretending to care about balancing the budget, a principle Republicans have seemingly jettisoned altogether now that a Republican is in office. It is a transfer of wealth from the least advantaged to the most and from future generations to Trump’s supporters in the here and now. It’s shortsighted and utterly irresponsible. But of course, what else did we expect?