May 22, 2017; New York Times
Presidential budget proposals are political statements far more than they are concrete policy proposals. This has been true for decades; it was true for the “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” 62-page budget outline issued in March, and it is true for President Trump’s first full budget as published by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
Despite being overseas, Trump will today reveal his $4.1 trillion budget for 2018. Entitled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget is based on what the New York Times calls a combination of “improbable” revenue estimates based on growth to be generated by a still vague tax cut program, and cuts to some of the nation’s most vulnerable residents.
In classic Trump style, even the release of the budget document was a confusing mess. The Washington Post reports:
The full budget document is scheduled to be released Tuesday morning, but either by mistake or design, the administration posted the section dealing with the Department of Health and Human Services late Monday afternoon. The document was soon taken offline but can be read here.
The New York Times discusses the terrifying range of cuts being proposed.
The package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters whose backing propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.
It would also cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. Student loan programs that subsidize college educations for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations would be eliminated.
The budget also proposes “saving $40 billion over a decade by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the childcare tax credit or the earned-income tax credit, a subsidy for low- and middle-income families, particularly those with children. He has also requested $19 billion for a new program, spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents.”
Presidential budgets are largely ritualistic—a combination starting pistol for the budget process and wish list. It’s a ritual generally observed with full pomp and circumstance, but in this case, the president is not even on the continent.
“If the president is distancing himself from the budget, why on earth would Republicans rally around tough choices that would have to be made?” said Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition. “If you want to make the political case for the budget—and the budget is ultimately a political document—you really need the president to do it. So, it does seem bizarre that the president is out of the country.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, commented from the Senate floor, “Based on what we know about this budget, the good news—the only good news—is that it was likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate, just as the last budget was.”
“This budget is dead before arrival, so he might as well be out of town,” said David Stockman, a former budget director under President Reagan.—Ruth McCambridge