First, let’s acknowledge the reality that little if anything reported about Trump’s budget outline will actually become law. It is, to put it briefly, a lot of what we already knew about his intentions toward various agencies and initiatives which NPQ has already covered.
There is a long history of presidential budgets being dead on arrival (DOA) when they reach Capitol Hill. Congress will have the final say in approving expenditures for the president’s signature. This will happen either through the authorization and appropriations processes (known as “regular order” by policy mavens) or through last-minute “continuing resolution” (CR) bills designed to keep the government functioning for short periods of time in the absence of regular order. As NPQ observed yesterday when reporting on the president’s latest “mission impossible”: an executive order mandating a study to recommend reorganizing the executive branch of the federal government in 180 days, there are a myriad of entrenched Congressional, advocacy, beneficiary, and other interests arrayed against any substantive changes in how the federal government does business.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a 62-page “budget outline” Thursday for FY2018, which begins on October 1, 2017. OMB is officially part of the Executive Office of the President, so it’s easy to understand why the document, titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” looks and sounds a lot like a Trump campaign policy paper. Much of the media have focused on the $54 billion in additional funding for defense and homeland security, with a corresponding $54 billion in cuts (for some agencies, deep cuts) to domestic programs, including foreign aid.
For those interested in the math, all the financial information is contained in five pages of “summary table” at the end of the report. The bulk of the report is narrative and bullet points describing how the Trump administration wishes the federal government would spend about $1 trillion of the roughly $4 trillion federal budget.
There is plenty in the blueprint for beneficiaries and advocates of domestic spending programs to be alarmed about. Climate change programs would be eliminated from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as would State Department funding of international climate change efforts. The Agriculture Department would end the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, “which lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity,” according to OMB. The New York Times has published a department-by-department scorecard of winners and losers. Politico has found six surprises, from increased funding for lead paint mitigation and the upcoming 2020 census to increased airline fees and bankruptcy filing fees.
As reported by NPQ two weeks ago, a number of agencies and programs are targeted for extinction. From the blueprint:
The Budget also proposes to eliminate funding for other independent agencies, including: the African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
At least some of these same agencies were targeted for elimination as long ago as the 1980s during the Reagan administration; the fact that they are once again targeted shows that they survived (and even thrived) despite previous White House and Congressional challenges.
These cuts come at a time when the nonprofit sector has been growing. The 2015-2016 NonProfit Salaries & Staffing Report produced by PNP Staffing Group concluded that the nonprofit sector grew 20% over the previous 10 years in contrast to a growth rate of about 2-3% in the for-profit sector. NPQ reported a similar trend by the Urban Institute in 2013. There are four times more businesses than nonprofits, but it is still noteworthy to consider that nonprofits are outpacing all those businesses in their percentage growth in hiring, wages and their contribution to the nation’s GDP.
Nonprofits are multiplying faster than for-profit businesses for many more reasons than the IRS making the application process easier. For example, our aging population’s demand for health care services is being met in large part by nonprofits. An increasing number of charities are attempting to meet the needs of impoverished Americans.
The National Study of Nonprofit-Government Contracts and Grants 2013: State Profiles following up on Nonprofit-Government Contracts and Grants: Findings from the 2013 National Survey found that some 56,000 nonprofits had 350,000 federal, state, and local government contracts and grants totaling more than $137 billion in 2012. The Urban Institute concluded the following:
Nearly half of all nonprofit organizations, in 2013, reported a decrease in revenue from federal agencies, and one in five said their experience with federal, state, and local government contracting was worse in 2012 than in previous years.
While nonprofits should not panic by any means, now is not the time to be complacent or soft spoken as administrations and budget priorities change. For nonprofits, now is the time to gather your resources, allies, stakeholders and strategies for the fight ahead which will undoubtedly will be more intense on some battlefields than on others but, for this period, vigilance and the ability to flexibly respond where needed with strategies and supporters in hand will be critical. – Michael Wyland and Jim Schaffer