Trump Budget ‘Not a Budget,’ Think Tank Says

By focusing on discretionary spending, budget 'effectively ignores 70% of spending and 90% of its growth over the next decade'

Trump's first "skinny" budget is even skinnier than many past presidents'. (Photo: AP) Trump's first "skinny" budget is even skinnier than many past presidents'. (Photo: AP)

“This is not a budget,” William Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said during a Thursday call to discuss release of President Donald Trump’s “America First” budget blueprint.

“I’ve heard comments made that [Trump’s] $1 trillion budget has been released, but the federal government’s budget is $4 trillion … we’re only looking at one-third of the budget” and it’s only for 2018, Hoagland said on a call with reporters.

Budgets normally cover a “10-year span,” he added. “In a crude way, we have one-third of a budget for one-tenth of the time frame equaling one-thirtieth of the total budget,” he said, criticizing the Office of Management and Budget’s “anemic” plan for not including economic forecasts, revenue projections or entitlement spending.

“This one really is dead on arrival” in Congress, Hoagland said.

BPC anticipates a fuller budget release this spring, possibly in May.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., ranking minority member on the House Financial Services Committee, called Trump’s skinny budget a “dangerous” budget. “Trump’s massive cuts to housing and economic development programs would put millions of Americans and their communities at risk. But this is only part of the story: Trump’s budget is silent on the future of Wall Street’s cop, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the job-creating Export-Import Bank.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also criticized OMB’s proposed budget as “clobbering” middle-class programs, noting that “investments in infrastructure, education, scientific research that leads to cures for diseases all take big hits.”

Democrats in Congress, Schumer said, “will emphatically oppose these cuts and urge our Republican colleagues to reject them as well.”

Greg Valliere, chief global strategist for Horizon Investments, said Thursday, however, that Trump's budget cuts “will be softened by the GOP, they won’t take a meat-ax” to the State Department or National Institute of Health.

However, “shipbuilding and other big defense spending hikes will occur – without offsets from other programs,” Valliere opined.

OMB’s budget details the administration’s plans for defense and nondefense discretionary spending for fiscal 2018 while proposing some adjustments for the current fiscal year, as noted by the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Unlike prior skinny budgets from first-year presidents, “President Trump’s budget does not include any proposed changes to mandatory spending or revenue, nor proposals and cost estimates in the years beyond 2018. By focusing only on discretionary spending, this budget effectively ignores 70% of spending and 90% of its growth over the next decade,” the Center says.

For fiscal 2018, Trump’s budget – which was released the same day that the debt limit was reinstated – calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending – a full repeal of the cap reductions often referred to as “sequester,” the Center notes.

To offset these costs, the budget reduces nondefense discretionary spending by about one-tenth.

Relative to today’s level, the Center states that the budget would cut the State Department by 29% ($11 billion), the Environmental Protection Agency by 31% ($3 billion), the Health and Human Services Department by 16% ($13 billion), and the Education Department by 14% ($9 billion).

“Most other domestic agencies would also see substantial cuts; 19 smaller agencies would be eliminated entirely. The Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Departments would see their funding boosted a combined $7 billion – by 6% and 7%, respectively,” the Center notes.

The Center goes on to state that the administration “can rectify this lack of detail by putting out more proposals in the coming weeks and releasing their fuller budget as quickly as possible. Until a budget plan is proposed and agreed to, legislative changes with major fiscal implications should be avoided.”

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