Trump’s budget priorities mean cutting almost everything the government does

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

On Tuesday night, President Trump will speak before Congress about his legislative priorities. One he’s bound to mention is his upcoming budget outline, which will lay out where he wants to cut and increase government spending. He’s already described some of the things he wants to do in his budget: increase defense spending by $54 billion, while leaving Social Security and Medicare as is.

If he were to actually follow through on everything he says he wants to do, it would basically mean that the Department of Defense and entitlement programs would be the only things left in the government.

On Monday, Trump’s team said it would call for an equal decrease in the pot of government funding known as non-defense discretionary spending to make up for the increase in military spending.

Non-defense discretionary spending is a catch-all phrase for a huge number of government functions. The money funds educational programs like Head Start, Pell Grants, and K-12 services; core government duties like law enforcement and collecting taxes through the IRS; health and scientific research; nutrition, rent, child care, and home heating assistance for low-income people; public safety through the CDC and FDA; infrastructure like the National Highway System and air traffic control; environmental programs through the EPA; and the protection and preservation of national parks.

According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a $54 billion cut would drop spending for these programs — minus the Veterans Administration, for which Congress already passed increased funding — 15 percent below their current level.

But the cuts would actually end up being deeper if they come on top of spending caps Congress mandated in 2011 that are set to take effect in 2018 after two years of putting them off. To even get his increase in defense spending, Trump would have to convince Congress to undo the cap mandated by law under sequestration.

Sequestration means that non-defense discretionary spending in 2018 is scheduled to be 16 percent lower than what it was in 2010, adjusted for inflation. If it’s cut by another $54 billion, that would drop spending a full quarter below what it used to be.

That would bring spending on these programs to the lowest level ever recorded. The current low point was 3.09 percent of GDP in 1962; Trump’s cuts would bring it below 3 percent.

In an interview with Fox on Tuesday morning, Trump argued that his increase in defense spending could be covered not by severe spending cuts elsewhere, but by an increase in economic growth. “I think the money is going to come from a revved up economy,” he said, promising to grow GDP to 3 percent or more a year.

It’s unlikely he can achieve significantly higher growth, however. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the economy will grow at 2.1 percent this year, and while there may be some slack in the economy that leaves room for more with all the right policies, there probably isn’t a whole lot.

A president doesn’t have to balance the budget, and Trump could just call for an increase in defense spending, a huge tax cut, a ramp up in infrastructure spending, mass deportations, and money to build a border wall without paying for it. But he repeatedly promised on the campaign trail that he would balance the budget.

Doing so, while also sticking to his pledge to leave Social Security and Medicare alone — two of the biggest drivers in government spending — would basically require cutting everything else that the government does. According to a calculation by Senate Budget Committee staffer Robert Kogan, it would mean a 93 percent cut from where things stand now within 10 years.

Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media. Follow her on Twitter @brycecovert

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Neil Gorsuch Unacceptable for Supreme Court

Hugh J. Campbell

Hugh J. Campbell Son of a steelworker, Philadelphia, Pa.

Bill Haschke’s Neil Gorsuch is the wrong choice for U.S. Supreme Court provides an historical framework for the U.S. Senate to reject confirm Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court

Our founding fathers knew that only government could protect the rights of all citizens, because it would be large enough to challenge all other economic powers who wanted to exploit peoples’ rights for their own greedy pursuit of wealth and power. The declaration states “…that to protect these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The Declaration of Independence informs us of exactly what governments should be, whom they serve and the values that should be applied to form valid governments; it codified the natural rights of man. After our “slavery issue” was resolved, the court began interpreting the constitution more in the light of the Declaration of Independence, in keeping with the exceptional ideals put forth in our founding document.

However, since January 7, 1972 when Justices Powell and Rehnquist were sworn-in, the SCOTUS began ignoring the Declaration of Independence with more and more power over our elections, and therefore our government, being granted to powerful economic interest, including corporations, culminating with the Citizens United case.

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Out of Pocket and Out of Reach

Out of Pocket and Out of Reach