Trump’s budget is irresponsible
President Donald Trump’s discretionary budget acknowledges that the “$20 trillion national debt is a crisis,” but then decreases spending by a paltry $2.7 billion, a 0.3 percent reduction to $1.1 trillion in spending according to the Office of Management and Budget.
Fiscally conservative? We think not.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2016 that for the national debt to remain at its current percentage of gross domestic product by 2046 (an unsustainable 75 percent), the budget would need to be cut by 8 percent across the board.
We’re not advocating fiscal medicine of that strength. But Trump’s plan for even harsher cuts in many agencies, combined with large budget increases in others, is simply not fair or responsible.
The discretionary budget doesn’t include entitlement programs of Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security, which could be places that Trump plans to make additional cuts, but those shouldn’t bear the entire burden of reducing the deficit either.
As the government contracts back to a size supported by existing revenues, every federal agency must share some of that burden. We can’t be throwing money at pet projects that make other cuts meaningless.
So instead of focusing on Trump’s cuts, let’s focus for a moment on what he spends.
The Department of Defense would get a $52 billion increase, jumping to $639 billion.
Trump’s budget claims to be restoring the Department of Defense from the devastating impacts of the Budget Control Act of 2011, also known as the sequester. That failed attempt at controlling spending called for $1.2 trillion in cuts drawn down between 2013 and 2021. That level of cuts, in- cluding for defense spending, has yet to occur.
Trump’s budget puts into perspective for us just how excessive that increase is: “That increase alone exceeds the entire defense budget of most countries and would be one of the largest one-year increases in American history.”
Next, the Department of Veterans Affairs will get an increase of $4.4 billion, or 6 percent. This expenditure is probably needed to better serve the 11 million veterans who get medical care and support from an agency plagued by scandal. But an increase of this level is questionable at best at a time the budget needs to be reduced.
Finally, the Department of Homeland Security would get a 6.8 percent increase, or nearly $2.8 billion. But the budget makes cuts within the department, too, so it can reallocate a total of $4.5 billion “for programs to strengthen the security of the nation’s borders and enhance the integrity of its immigration system.”
Trump’s Mexican border wall has a price tag, and it’s the American people paying $2.6 billion. Another $1.5 billion would beef up deportation efforts. This is Trump making good on bad campaign promises.
Comparatively, the budget allocates only $314 million to “recruit, hire, and train 500 new border patrol agents, and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement law enforcement personnel.” Those investments seem far more justifiable than a wall or deportation efforts, and increased border patrol could be an important part of any compromise for needed immigration reforms.
Trump may have intended his budget to be a low-ball opening bid that spurs negotiation, but instead it is a laughable offer that should make both Republicans and Democrats walk away from the negotiating table.