Although the Constitution doesn’t mention a federal budget, according to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the president must annually submit a proposed federal budget to Congress for the next fiscal year by the first Monday in February. Because the government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30, the budget submitted in February is actually for the next fiscal year that begins in October. But since it is not possible for a new president, who takes office on January 20, to submit a budget within a few days of taking office, he is given extra time to submit his first budget.
The president’s budget is a guideline and a blueprint, but it is also a proposal and a request. It is ultimately up to Congress — not the president — to decide how much the federal government will spend in any given fiscal year. According to the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, within six weeks of the president’s submitting his budget, congressional committees are required to submit their “views and estimates” of federal spending and revenues to the House and Senate budget committees. The budget committees hold hearings on the president’s budget and then draft and report a concurrent resolution on the budget. It is only then that appropriation bills are passed and sent to the president for his signature.
Donald Trump has now submitted his proposed federal budget to Congress for fiscal year 2018. Unlike Barack Obama’s last six budgets, which were an exercise in futility since the Republicans controlled either the House or the House and Senate for the last six years he was in office, Trump’s budget has a chance of actually being adopted by the Republican-controlled Congress.
Let’s hope not.
A New Foundation for American Greatness, which was submitted on May 23, is not just the title of the president’s budget, “It is a bold and specific set of policy and budgetary initiatives that tackle many of the problems ignored or exacerbated by previous administrations.”
Predictably, the liberal news media and congressional Democrats are very critical of the president’s budget.
The Washington Post headlines, “How Trump’s budget helps the rich at the expense of the poor.” The New York Times headlines, “Trump’s budget cuts deeply into Medicaid and anti-poverty efforts.” It cuts “deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities.”
House Democrats tweeted that Trump’s budget “throws millions of Americans into poverty, rips health care from families, & makes children go hungry.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) called the proposed “cuts” to food stamps, payments to the disabled, and other programs “astonishing and frankly immoral.” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) termed the budget “cruel,” “heartless,” “evil,” and “inhumane.” Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) said the “cuts” in the budget to food stamps “fail the test of basic human decency.”
Even the United Nations has weighed in on Trump’s budget. Because it calls for cuts in funding to the United Nations and its international peacekeeping account, “The figures presented would simply make it impossible for the UN to continue all of its essential work advancing peace, development, human rights, and humanitarian assistance,” said a spokesperson for the organization.
But why would Democrats, liberals, and progressives who actually looked at Trump’s budget be upset?
One can see right away that something is fishy about Trump’s budget without even getting into specific budget numbers. Notice these two statements in the “budget message of the president” that accompanies the budget:
Through streamlined Government, we will drive an economic boom that raises incomes and expands job opportunities for all Americans. Faster economic growth, coupled with fiscal restraint, will enable us to fully fund our national priorities, balance our budget, and start to pay down our national debt.
To unleash the power of American work and creativity — and drive opportunity and faster economic growth — we must reprioritize Federal spending so that it advances the safety and security of the American people.
You cannot “streamline” government and exercise “fiscal restraint” by “reprioritizing” government spending. You can do those things only by cutting spending across the board.
And then there is this statement about the budget in the budget “overview”: “The New Foundation for American Greatness will put our Nation’s budget back into balance and begin to reduce the national debt.” But the budget is not balanced. It projects receipts of $3.654 trillion, outlays of $4.094 trillion, and a deficit of $440 billion. The budget is only projected to be balanced in ten years — when Trump won’t even be in office anymore.
Although Trump claims that his budget “includes $3.6 trillion in spending reductions over ten years,” his budget proposes that the federal government spend more money every year for the next ten years than it spent when Obama was the president. What’s not to love if you are a Democrat?
Most of the cuts that Democrats are complaining about are not really cuts at all. They are spending increases that are smaller than those called for in the “baseline budget” that has been projected by the Congressional Budget Office since 1974. Baseline budgeting sets the next fiscal year’s budget “based” on the previous year’s expenditures, plus an increase. Baseline budgeting allows politicians to claim that they are cutting spending when they are actually increasing spending.
Trump’s budget keeps intact the welfare state: food stamps, Medicare, SCHIP, Medicaid, Social Security, TANF, EITC, SSI, and every other welfare program is still funded. The programs are just reformed.
Trump’s budget not only keeps intact the welfare state, it expands it. There is a parental leave program that would grant many working mothers and fathers six weeks of paid time off following the birth or adoption of a child. The budget also supports year-round Pell Grants that “[give] students the opportunity to earn a third semester of Pell Grant support during an academic year, boosting total Pell Grant aid by $1.5 billion in 2018 for approximately 900,000 students.”
Increasing the warfare state seems to be Trump’s top priority. His budget includes a huge increase in military spending. Don’t think for a minute that Democrats aren’t supporters of the warfare state just like Republicans. The United States was at war every single day of Obama’s presidency. Democratic opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that Obama inherited from Bush dried up once Obama became the president. In the last year of Obama’s presidency, the United States was bombing seven countries: Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Democrats who love the welfare/warfare state should be thrilled with Trump’s budget. It’s a Democratic budget through and through.