Trump's Budget Proposal Suggests Devastating Cuts, to Boost Defense Budget

The Trump administration has released its preliminary 2018 budget proposal, and it is devastating. It proposes widespread cuts to a number of agencies, which would profoundly impact the services provided by the federal government.

Before we get into the details, a few points of clarity.

1. Although it stands to have a similar effect, the budget proposal is entirely separate from the recent executive order on the "reorganization" of the executive branch. That is a different strategy altogether to obliterate the federal government.

2. The proposal covers only discretionary spending. Mandatory spending is set and determined by laws using different metrics, e.g. the size of the eligible population for any benefits provided by those departments, so that would not be affected by this budget. Discretionary spending is determined by Congressional budget resolutions, so, essentially, this is a request to Congress on what the president would like Congress to do.

3. Every year, the president sends a budget proposal to Congress. Rarely does that budget proposal get rubberstamped. Congress takes the proposal under advisement, to varying degrees, but generally makes changes. So this is not a final budget. It gives a good picture into the president's priorities, however.

4. How much Congress respects/enacts the president's budget proposal depends a whole lot on whether the same party holds both the executive and legislative branches. The Republican Congressional majority ignored President Obama's budget proposals and did whatever they wanted. We're about to find out how much that same Republican majority wants to give a Republican president what he wants.

So, to the details. Kim Soffen and Denise Lu at the Washington Post have a terrific rundown of what Trump is proposing. Following are a few highlowlights.

First: The budget proposes elimination of funding altogether for 19 agencies:
African Development Foundation
Appalachian Regional Commission
Chemical Safety Board
Corporation for National and Community Service
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Delta Regional Authority
Denali Commission
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Inter-American Foundation
U.S. Trade and Development Agency
Legal Services Corporation
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
Northern Border Regional Commission
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
U.S. Institute of Peace
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Every single one of those agencies serves an important purpose, but it is particularly notable that Trump is proposing to eliminate wholesale the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which, as Soffen and Lu note, "supports public television and radio, including PBS and NPR."

Also note the recommended eradication of the U.S. Institute of Peace, which was "created by Congress in 1984 as an independent, nonpartisan national institute dedicated to the proposition that peace is possible, practical and essential for U.S. and global security." That is especially rich, given that these massive cuts have been proposed, again per Soffen and Lu, to pay for, among other things, "an increase in defense spending [and] a down payment on the border wall."

So to make the world's most powerful military even more powerful, Trump is proposing to eliminate the Institute of Peace—and has also proposed a 29 percent reduction in the State Department budget, significantly reducing diplomatic services, thus creating a higher probability of war.

The massive proposed cut to the State Department isn't even the highest proposed cut. That dubious honor goes to the Environmental Protection Agency, to which Trump has suggested a 31 percent reduction in their budget, which would: Eliminate more than 50 programs and 3,200 jobs, discontinue funding for international climate change programs, and cuts funding for the Superfund cleanup program and the Office of Enforcement and Compliance, among other things.

Additional proposed cuts: Agriculture Department (21 percent), Labor Department (21 percent), Department of Health and Human Services (18 percent), Commerce Department (16 percent), Education Department (14 percent), Department of Housing and Urban Development (13 percent), Transportation Department (13 percent), Interior Department (12 percent), Energy Department (6 percent), Small Business Administration (5 percent), Treasury Department (4 percent), Justice Department (4 percent), NASA (1 percent).

There are three departments whose budgets get proposed increases: Defense Department (9 percent), Department of Homeland Security (7 percent), Department of Veterans Affairs (6 percent).

It may seem like there were an awful lot of cuts necessary for a 9 percent increase in the Defense Department budget, but that's because the Defense Department already has an outsized budget to begin with.

In 2016, the EPA, for example, had a $8.14 billion budget. The Defense Department, in contrast, had a $580.3 billion budget, more than 71 times the budget of the EPA. So it takes a whole lot of big cuts to smaller department to give Defense a 9 percent boost.

Anyway. These are the basic outlines. And we have a pretty good idea of where Trump's priorities are (not that we didn't know already). Now we wait to see how much the Republican Congressional caucus agrees.

I don't have high hopes for significant reluctance to impose this atrocity.

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