Big cuts and big spending in White House budget
President Trump unveiled a $4.8 trillion budget this week that sets out his policy priorities should he win re-election in November, proposing deep cuts to safety net programs and domestic spending and increased funding for defense and space exploration. The White House said the plan would eliminate the federal deficit—which is on track to top $1 trillion this year for the first time since 2012—within 15 years. To achieve that, Trump is seeking $4.4 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, of which $2 trillion would come from Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlements. Discretionary spending programs would also see broad cuts, with the State Department losing 7.7 percent of its funding in 2021, the EPA 26.5 percent, and the Education Department 7.8 percent. Not every part of government would see cutbacks: Another $2 billion would be allocated for the border wall, NASA would get a $3 billion boost to build a lunar lander, and the Pentagon would receive additional funding, including $18 billion for the new Space Force. The budget, said Trump, “sets the course for a future of continued American dominance and prosperity.”
The plan appeared all but dead on arrival, since federal spending is appropriated by Congress. Democrats dismissed the proposal out of hand, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling its cuts to Medicare and Medicaid “savage” and an attack on “hardworking American families.” Republicans were noncommittal. Sen. Michael Enzi, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said the proposal was “just a list of suggestions.”
What the columnists said
The budget “makes Trump’s intentions crystal clear,” said Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times: “He means to shred the federal safety net for the poor and sick.” And he’s doing all of this to reduce a deficit that’s ballooned thanks to his 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the rich. From “leaching funds from Medicare” to cutting spending on the Centers for Disease Control in the middle of a coronavirus epidemic, this plan has “something to enrage everyone,” said Charles Pierce in Esquire.com. “In any sane country” it would be “political suicide.”
The plan is “built on a mountain of falsity,” said The Baltimore Sun in an editorial. To close the deficit by 2035, it presumes a rosy future in which the economy grows 3 percent annually (it hasn’t topped 2.5 percent in the Trump era) and the Democratic-led House accepts a series of unacceptable cuts. Trump knows his plan is dead but cares more about throwing red meat to the base than actually governing. It’s “budgeting for Twitter followers.”
This is “why the U.S. is fiscally doomed,” said Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner. Fearing voter backlash, lawmakers refuse to get serious about the painful measures needed to shrink our $23 trillion national debt. And don’t think Trump will fight for the cuts in his plan. He has repeatedly proposed budgets filled with spending cuts “only to sign whatever Congress sends to him.” If he draws a second term, expect more of the same: “bold talk” and a growing debt crisis that everyone ignores.