Trump’s budget gives nod to American war culture, shuns the vulnerable

UPDATE — 3/20, 9:11 a.m. EDT: In an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney promised the White House would release a plan in May to balance the federal budget within the next decade.

“It is a very complicated budget process when your entitlements, your mandatory spending is driving most of your budget deficit,” he said. “So over the course of the next decade, we’ll have to look at the mandatory spending side in order to figure out a way to make changes to the way we spend money.”

Director Mulvaney also said President Trump’s infrastructure spending plan would be released by “early fall.”

 

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released President Trump’s first annual budget proposal early Thursday, a 50-plus page document sent to Congress outlining the White House’s preliminary fiscal year 2018 discretionary spending request.

Entitled, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” OMB designed the so-called “skinny” budget based on a litany of the president’ speech transcripts which generally emphasized policies favoring national security, defense and economic nationalism, as well as across-the-board deregulation.

“There’s no question this is a hard power budget,” said OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. “It’s not a soft power budget. And that was done intentionally.”

Mulvaney is referring to a fiscal balancing of sorts that proposes to cut federal funding for domestic programs and foreign aid. The money saved would mainly be reinvested in the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to upgrade weapons systems and other military infrastructure, and increase immigration enforcement.

Overall, President Trump is asking for about $1.085 trillion for non-mandatory government programs, which would result in a nearly $490 billion federal deficit in FY 2018, which starts Oct. 1, 2017. The most significant spending increase would be granted to the Defense Department, which would see its budget raised by 10 percent to $574 billion.

DHS funding would also balloon to $44.1 billion, a seven percent increase over President Obama’s budgetary request for the department a year ago.  In addition, the Trump White House is asking Congress for a supplementary $1.5 billion be released this fiscal year to begin the process of constructing a wall on the U.S. southern border and an additional $2.6 billion next year for the same purpose.

To off-set these increases, the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), EPA, Health and Human Services and several other executive departments are up for major reductions in funding.

State and USAID, along with other international programs, alone are requested to be cut by nearly 30 percent, down to $27 billion from $38 billion in 2017.  The largest reductions are targeted for foreign aid and UN monetary assistance.

Major cost-savings will also come out of the federal environmental protection budget, which Trump wants to decrease by almost a third to $5.7 billion by eliminating over 50 EPA programs, including former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay restoration projects, as well as the Energy Star program.

Other major funding reductions are proposed for the Energy, Labor, Education, Transportation, Commerce and Agriculture departments. Cuts include the elimination of government programs which help unemployed seniors and underprivileged youth get jobs, funding for 17 national laboratories, public after-school initiatives and grants to fund road, rail and port projects across the country.

In another would-be cost-saving move, President Trump is also calling for the privatization of the national air traffic control, currently operated by the FAA. OMB’s budget outline specifically recommends the system be run by an “independent, non-governmental organization”, in the name of efficiency and innovation.

While “Make America Great Again” will undoubtedly have the support of Congress’ most fiscally conservative members, it is likely most of the domestic spending cuts won’t be palatable for a majority of moderate and liberal representatives from both parties.

“You don’t have 50 votes in the Senate for most of this [budget], let alone 60,” said Bipartisan Policy Center analyst Steve Bell. “There’s as much chance that this budget will pass as there is I’m going to have a date with Elle Macpherson.”

Perhaps the most egregious spending reduction would be to FEMA, which the Trump administration has asked to cut by $667 million, taking federal grant money away from state, local and tribal governments to prepare for natural disasters.

The White House’s full budget request, which will include funding proposals for mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare, as well 10-year federal revenue projections, is scheduled to be released in May.

 

[NPR] [Wall Street Journal] [Washington Post] [Reuters] [AP] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via Politico]

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