It is budget week in America, the time of the year when you are reminded of how monstrous the bureaucratic machine is and how entitled politicians feel to your hard-earned tax dollars. Despite years of lamenting President Barack Obama and the Democrats for their bloated deficit-financed spending ways, the Republicans are putting forward once again an enormous, record-breaking budget for fiscal year 2021 to the tune of $4.8 trillion. And, yes, that is a real number. To no one’s surprise, the Democrats are unhappy, and not because they have become stalwarts of the public purse and born-again fiscal conservatives. The Democrats are handwringing because it is less than what the two-year bipartisan agreement established last summer to keep the federal government open.
Nuclear Weapons, Walls, and Mars
So, what is inside the Trump administration’s budget? The heart of the proposal consists of $740.5 billion (0.3% boost) in defense spending and $590 billion (5% reduction) for domestic outlays, including health care, education, and transportation. The 2021 plan also asks for $2 billion in new border wall funding, $28.9 billion to modernize the Pentagon’s nuclear delivery systems, $1 trillion for national infrastructure, and a 13% increase in Veterans Affairs spending.
The White House does propose to tackle somewhat the national debt and deficit by paring spending by $4.4 trillion over the next decade. The initiative to grapple with the ocean of red ink will mostly come from $2 trillion in savings from mandatory spending programs, including $292 billion welfare cuts and $70 billion to tighten eligibility access for federal disability benefits.
Although President Trump has shown reckless abandon in the budget, his proposal does seek out significant savings that could make a dent in long-term receipts. The government could save $292 billion in adding a work requirement to welfare programs, $266 billion from site neutrality rules, $170 billion in adjustments to student loan laws, and $135 billion in Medicaid prescription drug pricing.
Can Americans expect another tax cut? The budget does anticipate the individual tax breaks from the 2017 GOP tax law will be extended past 2025, but administration officials say they are putting together a more comprehensive tax plan that will be announced in the summer. President Trump and chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow have hinted at a huge middle-class tax cut this year that would likely be unveiled before the November election.
Senior officials project that the federal deficit would slip to $966 billion next year, below the Congressional Budget Office’s $1 trillion forecast. The national debt has already climbed $3 trillion in Trump’s presidency to $23.2 trillion, and his budget recommends adding to liabilities for the next 15 years. You could say that at least he is honest since most Republican presidents release plans that promise to balance the budget within a decade and then fail to do so.
Handwringing Before the Unveiling
Even before the official release of the FY 2021 budget, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) panned it:
“The budget is a statement of values and once again the President is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security and well-being of hard-working American families. Less than a week after promising to protect families’ health care in his State of the Union address, the President is now brazenly inflicting savage multi-billion-dollar cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.”
House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) released a histrionic statement, calling Trump a “destructive and irrational president” who is releasing a “destructive and irrational budget.”
Despite the hyperbole from the left, this budget is not that much different from preceding ones. It is still deep in the red and adds to the debt. Ostensibly, the Democrats are perturbed that the president is not spending as much as the August 2019 bipartisan deal outlined. In that pact, Republicans and Democrats agreed to $626.5 for non-defense spending and the possibility of additional outlays in an off-budget account that included $8 billion for domestic spending. President Trump reportedly scrapped it.
The two parties are squabbling about whether this was a ceiling or a floor. For the sake of taxpayers, it might be better if it were the former rather than the latter.
Over the next several months, you can anticipate the media’s coverage will be comparable to Common Dreams’ description of the budget: “savage.” But can slowing the growth of spending and raising the debt really be considered massive cuts? That has laughably been the consensus in Washington for years. Do you remember the sequester in 2013?
Under that deal between Obama and Republican leadership, the federal government agreed to $85 billion in automatic spending cuts. Over ten years, there would be $1.2 trillion in automatic spending slashes, but federal spending still increased between $7 trillion and $9 trillion.
By the end of the quarrel, politicians and bureaucrats were still spending more. The debt still skyrocketed. Public employees, who were out of work for a couple of weeks but received retroactive pay, saw their hours and wages climb in the aftermath of the sequester. Yet, according to Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), the sequester cost 170 million jobs. As the title column of Liberty Nation’s Washington Political Columnist Tim Donner goes, say what?
‘Who the Hell Cares About the Budget?’
The 2020 election is unlikely to be a time of hope and change for fiscal conservatives. Neither party has any plan to take America’s public purse seriously, choosing only to spend, borrow, and print. Republicans and Democrats have their priorities; one side wants to send a mission to Mars and the other wants to provide illegal immigrants free health care. The incumbent president may be giving today’s taxpayers a reprieve on their tax bill, but tomorrow’s generation will be forced to cover the tab.
The Democrats have proven to say and do the opposite of everything President Trump says and does. If he were to declare his love of oxygen, the left would put plastic bags over their heads. Reportedly, Trump told a Florida fundraiser audience last month, “Who the hell cares about the budget?” Now would be the opportunity for Democrats to raise their hands and proclaim to the heavens, “I care about the budget, Mr. President! Pass the chainsaw.” Don’t hold your breath.
Read more from Andrew Moran.
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