Trump Tries to Cut Spending, Dems Say Budget 'Cruel,' Dead on Arrival

Leslie Hanson
March 12, 2019

The Trump administration on Monday released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, calling for government-wide domestic spending cuts of 5%, a site-neutral payment system for health care providers and a major Medicaid overhaul.

While the president's budget is unlikely to be implemented, the document does carry some weight as a signal of Trump's priorities. Democrats have insisted on rough "parity" in the treatment of defense and non-defense spending, while opposing money for a border wall.

Unfazed, Trump is requesting $8.6 billion in the budget proposal and wanted another $3.6 billion to the funds he has diverted from military construction fund for the wall work using the national emergency powers. Lawmakers from both parties oppose the emergency declaration, but Congress appears to lack a veto-proof margin to block Trump. Money targeted for the wall "would be better spent on rebuilding America", they said.

For the fiscal year that begins October 1, Trump would increase defense spending by about 5 percent to $750 billion, despite a spending cap imposed by a deficit reduction law that requires cuts. To stay within the caps, the Trump budget shifts a portion of defense spending to an overseas contingency fund, which some fiscal hawks will see as a gimmick.

That plan was fairly detailed, coming with some funding formulas for that $200 billion in new spending that put an emphasis on projects that could attract, state, local, or even private investment, and which would not need ongoing federal support. The administration is counting on robust economic growth, including from the 2017 Republican tax cuts, to push down the red ink. Other economic experts disagree that growth will be that high, with many predicting slow growth.

U.S. government spending is out of control and the national debt is unsustainable, soaring to a whopping $22 trillion. Taxpayers First, the proposal "embodies fiscal responsibility", said Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, adding that the administration has "prioritized reining in reckless Washington spending" and shown "we can return to fiscal sanity".

Trump's gamble has skeptics among some in the president's inner circle, who have pushed the president and the White House to embrace larger policy ideas created to win over moderates and independents. "We've seen the impact of water contamination in communities throughout New Hampshire and a reduction in resources for the agency charged with protecting the drinking water of our children and families just doesn't make sense".

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said counting on 3 percent growth was "a fantasy assumption".

But Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group says it would work to appease Trump's political base and boost the fossil fuel and chemical industries. It also cuts Medicare spending and aims to lower prescription drug prices. The budget would slash Medicaid by $1.5 trillion, Medicare by $845 billion, Social Security by $25 billion, college education spending by $207 billion, and the food stamps program by $220 billion. But with Democrats in charge of the House, the plan is going nowhere on Capitol Hill. The budget for Homeland Security would increase by 7.4 percent.

The request would support implementation of a law Trump signed previous year to give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the troubled VA system, a major shift aimed at reducing wait times and improving care by steering more patients to the private sector. The plan again targets reducing veteran suicides as a top priority and sets aside $4.3 billion to improve the department's computer system and website.

Trump's budget request calls for spending $30 million on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program meant to remove toxic pollution, fight invasive species and deal with other longstanding environmental problems in the eight-state region.

At the same time, Trump would cut non-defense programs by about 5 percent from current levels and cancel previously approved projects to total about $55 billion in reductions, as required under the deficit law.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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