White House unveils budget wish list
In a 2019 budget proposal that Congress will likely ignore, President Trump this week put forward a $4.4 trillion wish list that would deeply cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps, but still add $984 billion to the deficit next year. President Trump’s proposal breaks with his campaign promises to both balance the federal budget and protect spending on Medicare and Medicaid; funding for the programs would be slashed by $236 billion and $250 billion, respectively, over the next 10 years. Alongside cuts to domestic programs, Trump called for increased military funding and for $18 billion for a border wall.
Trump’s budget blueprint has little chance of being enacted, as it came on the heels of a two-year bipartisan spending deal passed by Congress last week that boosts both domestic and military spending by roughly $300 billion. (See Controversy.) But the document is still considered a statement of presidential priorities, particularly concerning Trump’s infrastructure plan. The White House proposed earmarking $200 billion to spur local governments and private companies to spend $1.5 trillion on new roads, bridges, and other projects. That effort also faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans alike are skeptical that such a small federal investment could be effective.
What the columnists said
During the campaign, it seemed as if Trump might govern as a different kind of Republican, said Jeet Heer in NewRepublic.com. He “repeatedly promised to leave Medicaid and Medicare alone” and championed massive infrastructure projects as a way to create jobs. But even Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure plan “turns out to be smoke and mirrors.” The White House budget relies on broke state and local governments to pay for the bulk of the work, while cutting $178 billion from existing transportation funding. So much for “reshaping the Republican economic agenda.”
Actually, there’s too much “fuzzy math” here even for conservatives, said Veronique de Rugy in Reason.com. Presidential budget blueprints are never realistic: They tend to be full of overly rosy projections about economic growth and tax receipts. This White House proposal falls prey to those gimmicks and then some—and still results in massive deficit spending. “That the Trump administration didn’t even bother to fake budget-balance shows that not only has it totally given up on the pretense of being fiscally responsible, it doesn’t even feel any shame in its spending spree.”
Who cares? said Josh Barro in BusinessInsider.com. “Ordinarily, you might think a statement of principles from the president is important.” But President Trump has already shown that he’s willing to let Congress drive the fiscal bus with last week’s budget deal. Besides, this fantasy budget is packed with proposals that are dead on arrival, like steep cuts to medical research and the State Department that are opposed by both parties. Congressional leaders know that our detail-averse chief executive isn’t willing to fight for his budget proposals, said Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg.com. “In this administration, the president is more of an uninterested bystander than a combatant.”