Today the Trump Administration released its latest policy outline, but failing to fully address the nation’s nearly half-trillion dollar budget deficit. The “skinny budget” includes only top-line proposals for departments and agencies, while fiscal conservatives must wait until May for the White House’s full proposal.
The most glaring omission from the budget is the lack of entitlement spending numbers. Not including cost estimates to programs which have objectively done more to increase the size of the federal government bucks decades of Presidential budget precedent.
The budget calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which the administration claims will be paid for with “fairly dramatic” cuts across most federal agencies. The budget would force multiple departments to tighten their belts. For instance:
- Cuts to the State Department have garnered significant attention around Capitol Hill – $27.1 billion – a 29% reduction.
- The departments of Agriculture and Labor would both see their budgets slashed by 21% — Agriculture coming in at $17.9 billion and Labor at $9.6 billion.
- The Department of Interior’s budget would shrink by 12%, while HUD’s budget would be cut by 13.2%.
- HHS would face the largest nominal cuts, with Trump slashing $65.1 billion, a 20 percent reduction, while the EPA would receive the highest percentage cut – a 31% reduction.
- School choice advocates will cheer The Education Department’s $1.4 billion increase in public charter schools and private school investment, even as its overall budget is cut by 14%.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney suggests that this budget should be no surprise, saying, if he said it in the campaign, it’s in this budget,” but it’s certain to test the Donald’s deal-making prowess. The budget will face a tough road in the House, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the budget “probably” won’t get through the Senate citing concern to the large cuts in the diplomatic portion of the budget.
The deep cuts throughout this blueprint may give fiscal conservatives and limited government advocates some hope they’ve been yearning for after 8 years of big-government policies. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said that “This budget is the first step toward what will be, three or four years from now, a dramatically different federal government.”
But we must ask ourselves if the steps in the right direction can outweigh the very real costs of allowing total government spending and its bigger drivers to continue to grow.
If the President’s budget were to pass as is, we may drain a bog or two — but the swamp will not just live on, it will grow bigger than when President Trump was sworn into office.
Over the next decade, almost 65% of all federal spending will be on the mandatory side. Overall, the White House’s budget would dramatically increase the largest portion of discretionary spending (Pentagon spending), and allow the biggest portion of all spending to increase indefinitely without any reforms. The White House budget would partially – not entirely – pay for this plan with dramatic cuts to a very small part of federal outlays.
This plan may signal a change of direction for policymakers. Many fiscal conservatives push for budgets that balance in ten years or less, but now? “I want a balanced budget eventually,” said Trump, “But I want to have a strong military. To me that’s much more important than anything.”
President Trump is correct that protecting the nation is a constitutional imperative, but he would be well-served to remember that debt and runaway spending make doing so even more difficult. Our national well-being should not be framed in a mutually exclusive vacuum where we must choose between physical and financial security. Pushing for meaningful, lasting reforms that ensure both ought to be a top priority to members of both parties.