February 11, 2020

White House Budget Proposal

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“President Trump released a $4.8 trillion budget proposal on Monday that includes a familiar list of deep cuts to student loan assistance, affordable housing efforts, food stamps and Medicaid… [and] includes additional spending for the military, national defense and border enforcement, along with money for veterans, Mr. Trump’s Space Force initiative and an extension of the individual income tax cuts that were set to expire in 2025.” New York Times

You can read the budget proposal here. White House

See past issues

From the Left

The left is critical of the budget’s cuts to domestic spending, in particular those to healthcare programs.

Recall [Trump’s] repeated promises not to ‘touch’ Social Security and Medicare? Even as the elderly population swells, his budget calls for removing half a trillion dollars of funding from the Medicare program over 10 years, including $135 billion from Medicare prescription drugs, and tens of billions from [disability benefits provided by] the Social Security program. In 2015, he promised not to touch Medicaid, either. Now he wants to cut it by $920 billion…

“He was going to give Americans health care ‘much better’ than Obamacare. But he has proposed no such thing and now his budget calls for cutting spending on the program by $844 billion… This budget is a clear articulation of what Trump would do if given the chance. Democrats should be shouting this warning from the mountaintops. Instead, they’re bickering over who has the purest form of Medicare-for-all.”
Dana Milbank, Washington Post

“The shift of voters that drove the Democratic takeover of the House came after an outpouring of anger at Trump and Republicans over their effort to repeal the ACA. What’s more, in 2019, Democrats won governor’s races in deep red Kentucky and Louisiana, and seized total control of Virginia state government, in no small part due to the Trump/GOP record on health care. Democrats won in part by advocating for the Medicaid expansion…

“It’s one of the stranger subplots of this presidency that Trump and Republicans keep gunning for health care, despite the deep unpopularity of those efforts… Trump is giving Democrats a big weapon to wield against him, and they should seize it, just as they did in 2018.”
Greg Sargent, Washington Post

“The budget for the Health and Human Services Department would be lopped off by 9%. Crucially, HHS includes the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, the latter of which we’re hoping will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed at least 910 people, a stat the World Health Organization has warned may just be the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ (Officials have claimed that funding aimed at combating the virus would be protected, but Trump has said a lot of things in the past that turned out to be lies.)”
Bess Levin, Vanity Fair

“There are some other interesting bits in the new budget. In particular, it includes proposed efforts to bargain down drug prices — an unusual instance in which Trump would help out average Americans while forcing powerful pharmaceutical companies to eat the cost of the budget savings. But for the most part, the basic math of the budget emerges from the Republicans' determination to protect their constituencies and primary ideological commitments — i.e. older voters, the wealthy, and the Pentagon — while foisting the costs of their extraordinarily ambitious deficit-reduction goals on everyone else.”
Jeff Spross, The Week

Finally, “The Trump administration has long been hostile to foreign aid… The problem, however, is that this foreign aid funding isn’t just charity: Taking nearly $12 billion out of the foreign aid budget would severely harm US diplomatic efforts. For one, giving nations money they need to keep volatile situations stable enhances global security, and could actually prove cost-effective to the US if the money helps prevent catastrophe at home or abroad down the line…

“Aid could help with one of Trump’s top priorities: immigration. Trump last April froze $450 million in support to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. That took away needed direct support for people living in extreme poverty and danger in those nations, leading them to seek better opportunities in the United States… In years past, Republicans and Democrats have pushed back against these draconian slashes to foreign aid, and they are likely to do so again. But the president’s insistence on tearing down America’s assistance programs to bare bones — even though they hover at only around 1 percent of the federal budget — shows how misguided he is about their outsize impact.”
Alex Ward, Vox

Regarding Pelosi, “[her] talents have always lain in the less glamorous, less public side of politics: she is good at whipping up votes in her caucus and she is good at disciplining dissenters. She is good at offering incentives and punishments to get Democratic members of Congress to do what she wants them to do… To rip up the speech on television was a bit of theatricality, sure – a ploy designed to get attention. It also worked. The day after Trump made a long speech full of misinformation that tried to make a case for his re-election, no one is talking about him. Instead we are talking about the speaker of the House. That, too, is a skill, one that Pelosi seems to be honing.”
Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right supports many parts of the budget, but argues that even deeper spending cuts are needed.

From the Right

The right supports many parts of the budget, but argues that even deeper spending cuts are needed.

“Trump’s budget moves in the right direction by eliminating and cutting federal programs that perform functions that should be left to the people, states, and localities… Yet much more is needed to drain the swamp and limit Washington’s spending addiction

“Without spending restraint, low taxes are in immediate danger of being reversed. High deficits and debt also threaten economic progress, dragging down growth and putting the country at risk of a future fiscal crisis during which interest rates would rise, and the federal government would find it difficult to fund even core constitutional functions, such as providing for our nation’s defense. Moreover, profligacy today also means less fiscal space when the next recession hits. Now is the time to build up reserves.”
Romina Boccia, Washington Examiner

“Entitlement spending is projected to rise by 54% over the next decade—more than twice as fast as inflation—while discretionary spending stays essentially flat… Defense spending would fall as a share of GDP to 2.2% in 2030 from 3.2% this year. This is close to the 2% that NATO requires member countries to spend and not enough to replace the Pentagon’s aging weapons amid rising threats in multiple theaters…

“The larger picture is that revenues have continued to rise despite the tax cut… The problem is that outlays are rising faster—to 21.6% of GDP this fiscal year, the most since 2012 and well above the Bush and late Clinton years. Democrats and their media friends are complaining that the Trump Administration still has no plans to balance the budget, but that will require addressing entitlements that are on autopilot. Neither Democrats nor Mr. Trump are offering to do that.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Today’s deficits were pretty much baked into the cake long before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office… We’ve known for decades that due to the impending retirement of some 80 million baby boomers, the Titanic was headed toward [a] fiscal iceberg. Neither party did anything about it. The Trump strategy was to rapidly grow the economy and jobs so that more tax revenue would come into the government. That part has mostly worked…

“Since we passed the Trump tax cuts at the end of 2017, federal tax revenue is up from $3.316 trillion to $3.632 trillion — or $316 billion. The problem is federal spending has soared much faster, up by $665 billion in three years. Democrats want more for social programs. Republicans and Trump want more for the military, and so everything keeps rising. To rebalance the budget and contain our spiraling debt, a good first step is to recognize the problem: It’s the spending, stupid!”
Stephen Moore, USA Today

It’s worth noting that “President Trump is proposing to modify the outdated Institutions for Mental Disease payment exclusion, the long-standing Medicaid policy that prohibits federal reimbursement for many Medicaid-eligible patients who receive care in certain inpatient facilities dedicated to mental disease. These important changes will provide more than $5 billion in new federal funding to states that ensure a full continuum of care is in place to assist in getting people with serious mental illness the care they need and, in many cases, off the streets and out of prisons… Americans have failed people with mental illness. Trump’s new budget will change that.”
Joe Grogan, Washington Post

Still, “Trump’s budget reflects the political reality that neither he nor congressional Republicans have the appetite for large-scale changes to entitlements along the lines of what was proposed by Paul Ryan. At the same time, they want to keep increasing military spending and, if anything, cut taxes further. Trying to narrow the deficit within these parameters requires substantial cuts to nondefense discretionary spending that are just as unlikely to be adopted and sustained by Congress as any serious reforms to entitlements… [the budget is] a demonstration of why the United States is fiscally doomed.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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