Trump’s bud­get is ir­re­spon­si­ble

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.