Trump’s budget proposal raises bipartisan concerns
President Trump proposed deep cuts to Medicaid, food assistance, and other social safety net programs as he unveiled his first budget request to Congress this week, prompting immediate pushback from Democrats and a lukewarm reception from Republicans. The $4.1 trillion spending plan for fiscal 2018, titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” seeks to balance the budget in 10 years while pursuing a $54 billion increase in military spending and a $2.6 billion boost for border security. It also proposes substantial but undetailed tax reductions and depends on 3 percent economic growth—significantly higher than current forecasts. The budget’s new costs would be partly offset by slashing Medicaid funding by $800 billion over 10 years. Food stamp programs would be cut by $192 billion and disability payments by $72 billion. Budget director Mick Mulvaney said the plan reduces wasteful welfare spending and was written “through the eyes of the people who are actually paying taxes.”
A number of Republican lawmakers distanced themselves from the spending blueprint. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, called the cuts to Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers meals to housebound senior citizens, “a bridge too far.” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) dismissed Trump’s budget as conservative “fantasy,” existing “somewhere over the rainbow where the dreams of Mulvaney, [House Speaker] Paul Ryan, and the Koch brothers really do come true.”
What the columnists said
Like most presidential budget proposals, Trump’s plan “is deader than dead in Congress,” said Pat Garofalo in USNews.com. Not only does the proposal include a “glaring” accounting error that magically double-counts $2 trillion in savings; its cuts are so “embarrassingly painful that even staunch conservatives are turning a bit green.” It wouldn’t just gut programs in the GOP’s small-town heartland, but would also rip into the budgets of organizations like the National Institutes of Health.
“But the money has run out,” said Tom Rogan in Washington Examiner.com. This country is “taking on persistent deficits” and “slowly drowning” in $20 trillion of national debt. Trump realizes “he can’t actually balance the budget simply by eliminating ‘waste, fraud, and abuse,’” said Michael Tanner in National Review.com. “The only way to truly reduce federal spending is to reduce federal spending. And that means cutting programs that are popular, supported by powerful special interests, or both.”
But if you really want to tackle the debt, said Jordan Weissmann in Slate.com, you have to take on the two giants of federal spending: Social Security and Medicare. Trump’s budget makes no mention of either. Without entitlement reform, and with massive tax cuts for the wealthy to fund, Trump’s budget is nothing more than a “permission slip” for Paul Ryan and company when they sit down to devise their own budget—telling them “they are free to go wild butchering essential pieces of the safety net.” ■