A federal budget proposal no one likes
This past week, President Trump released his proposed federal budget. The shockwaves from the content of budget cuts were felt well beyond the beltway. Representatives from both political parties took umbrage from what can only be described as draconian slashes in certain government departments and constituent preferred programs.
As part of the social lexicon, programs such as Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, School Lunch, Heating Assistance and After School Care, among many others have become staples of the nation’s social safety net. The President’s budget eliminates some of these currently relied upon supports and severely curtails others.
Along with these proposed reductions in service are lesser known regional programs. These systems are also on the chopping block, which have raised the ire of elected officials fearing voter retribution in the next election.
Here at home, many Rhode Islanders will be negatively affected if this budget were to come to fruition. As a result, our local federal officials have adversely critiqued the president’s ideas citing a hard heartedness in his actions.
Besides the controversial breakdown of cuts and enhancements, the most stunning aspect of this proposed budget is that there are no attempts to lessen the cyclical deficit or the national debt. The deficit will reside just under a half a trillion and the national debt will remain around 20 trillion. Thus begging the question, since Trump constantly railed against the deficit and debt during the campaign, how come the administration is not addressing them in this budget?
When it comes to the federal budget the president proposes and the congress disposes. Judging by the feedback from both sides of the aisle so far, one can assume Mr. Trump’s goals will not likely be satisfied.
Most glaring in the proposed budget is the greatest increase in defense spending since the Reagan Era. A 10% increase in the defense budget totaling 574 Billion will see more troop strength and an expansion and modernization in our nuclear triad capability. Whereas conventional forces unit readiness seems a valid concern in a terrorism latent world. There has been no Soviet Union to contend with since 1991. One wonders why we are not reducing our costly to maintain nuclear arsenal. Hopefully, this move is not a harbinger of a possibly reckless Commander n’ Chief who may think a nuclear military response beyond a standing deterrent is feasible. Trump’s record of impetuous intemperance in his demeanor, foolish and erroneous tweeting, and uproarious extemporaneous statements can bring one to ponder his stableness.
Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security’s budget is being increased about 7% to just over 44 Billion. The extra funding is meant to greater enable the fight against illegal immigrants. This includes 1.4 Billion to immediately start building the quixotic two thousand mile wall intended to separate the United States and Mexico. With another 2.6 Billion allocated for the 2018 budget year, it is fairly clear that the American taxpayer not Mexico will be paying for this ridiculous edifice.
One of the hardest hit departments will be Agriculture if this budget is passed in tact. With an almost 21% decrease looming, the EBT (Food Stamps) program will be substantially reduced. This move will leave an estimated 4.5 million recipients immediately without support. Dependence on this program has increased substantially over the last decade. Sadly, many serving military families have had to seek supplementation to survive.
In addition to Food Stamps, rural farming programs will be severely cut or shutdown altogether. This move will further disenable family farms to survive who depend on subsidies and government insured loans to retain their businesses. Consequently, large agriculture corporations will likely subsume the remaining independent farms.
Under the divisive management of Education Secretary Betsy De Vos, the education department will suffer an almost 14% cut. After school programs, school breakfast and lunch programs, early childhood programs like Head Start, and summer achievement programs will either be greatly reduced or eliminated. At the same time, more money will be allocated for school choice and school voucher programs. Secretary De Vos had long advocated for this paradigm. These proposed changes spark an age old debate on whether it is the school’s responsibility to feed children or proctor them after school. A concerned and dutiful parent feeds their kids, packs their lunches, makes sure they have had some sort of breakfast before jumping on the bus, and checks their homework at night. Where does the responsibility of the parent end and the school begin?
Also reduced in budget would be the Department of Energy by about 6 percent. Currently, there is a daring problem concerning finding storage for nuclear waste. Also, with two cross continental pipelines to be built and regulatory and safety problems to be contended with, this seems like an inopportune time to cut Energy’s budget.
Along the same line, in the Trump budget there is a proposed reduction in the Environmental Protection Agency of almost 32 percent. When one considers the increased industrialization that the president is advocating for, it would seem less than coincidental that the agency that polices industrial development and protects watersheds, potable ground water sources, and the relative purity of soil would have its resources diminished.
Equally thought provoking is the massive cut to Housing and Urban Development. Over 13 percent will be cut from this department’s budget which will greatly reduce low income subsidized housing starts and funding of community centers. During the campaign, President Trump constantly complained about the state of the nation’s inner cities. He spoke disdainfully about the hopelessness, poverty, crime, and sloth that he believed was pervasive. He promised an urban renewal not only during the campaign but also in his inaugural speech and his speech to a joint session of congress. This budget move would seem antithetical to those promises.
As a result of the overall budget, safety net programs such as public assistance, Meals on Wheels, Home Heating Assistance, Help-Ride, and Legal Aid would be greatly reduced or eliminated. One can argue that these programs are unnecessary. Perhaps elderly shut-ins do not need a meal delivered on a daily basis, maybe low income people do not need help heating their apartments in the winter, its possible that elderly people can find another way to get to their doctor appointments, and if the impoverished cannot afford a lawyer than they will simply go without representation. The American taxpayer certainly cannot pay for every social program, but some have merit and show Americans are a compassionate people. I would rather feed the aged, get them to the doctor, and make sure poor kids have a heated bedroom to sleep in, than built a few more nuclear bombs that I pray the United States will never use.
Reactions to the president’s budget have been strongly critical among Democrats and Republicans. Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KS) stated that the proposed budget cuts were “draconian, careless and counter productive”. Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) whose district is agrarian stated “I just want to make sure that rural America, who was very supportive to Trump doesn’t have to take a disproportionately high cut”. House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Rod Frelinghaysen (R-NJ) warned Trump about his budget director Mick Mulvaney after his strident remarks of the following: “This is hard power budget not a soft power budget.” Frelinghaysen stated “Congress has the Power of the Purse.” Thus, he told the president not to expect smooth sledding of this quite unsettling proposal.
Our delegation to congress was not impressed with Trump’s ideas. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) said, “It [the budget] is reckless and unrealistic.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) stated “How does hamstringing our diplomatic corps put America first?” Whitehouse was speaking to the substantial proposed cut to the State Department. Also, “How does kicking children out of early education or making elderly and working families go without heat in the winter make America great again?” Democrat Congressman Jim Langevin went further on that point “His budget eliminates funding that helps people heat their homes and finds affordable housing – literally leaving them out in the cold”.
In any budgetary process hard decisions have to be made. Spending taxpayer money one way or the other promotes questions of fairness, effectiveness, and righteousness. The judgments involved are not just practical ones they are moral ones. President Trump’s budget if passed in tact will harm our nation more than enrich it. No effort was made to reduce the legacy of national indebtedness, which will thwart our children and grandchildren’s future. Further, the schematic presented here diminishes our capacity to be peacemakers through cuts in the State Department and escalates our military power for ends unclear presently.
In many ways, a federal budget is statement of principles. This budget makes one ponder what the president’s principles truly are.