A little over two months after releasing the broad strokes of his proposed 2018 federal budget, President Trump on Tuesday had his team reveal the final proposal to Congress. The budget is titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” and closely mirrors the previous high-level plan, with a few notable additions.
Objection to the budget had begun before the document was even released. The typical tantrums from the left were on full display, with phrases like “Eliminating domestic programs is unconscionable” from Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY), “stunning in its cruelty” courtesy of Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and even “comic-book-villain bad” from the mouth of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). However, there was some stiff resistance from the right as well, with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) claiming that the budget was “inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law, and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress.” The illegality concern is about the sequester, which is breached by the heightened funding levels in Trump’s proposal.
Politicians view the president’s budget as more of a wish list than a serious contender for passage, but it serves an important purpose in laying out the administration’s priorities. Several of these agenda items come as no surprise, such as increased funding for defense, homeland security, and veteran’s affairs. However, there were a few items which some may not have seen coming. President Trump’s budget includes a proposal to establish a parental leave program nationwide, funding six weeks of time off for both new fathers and new mothers. The government would administer this benefit through the existing Unemployment Insurance System. Another surprise addition to the budget was a proposal to transition air traffic control responsibility in the United States away from the FAA and to a non-government, non-profit corporation. The current system in Canada is held up as an example of this arrangement done right, and they are one of sixty countries which have already privatized this industry. The FAA would continue to function as a safety and regulatory agency, but their role in our nation’s air traffic control would be eliminated. Another addition to the budget is a restructuring of student loan repayment rules. The main change is a shift in how the regulations cap payments as a percent of salary and forgive loans. By changing the current arrangement of a 10% cap forgiven after twenty years and replacing it with a 12.5% cap forgiven after fifteen years, the budget achieves $50 billion in savings over the next five years.
The budget calls for several significant cost reduction measures, many of which the mainstream media will tear to pieces. Amidst the cuts to the arts, food stamps, foreign aid, and a myriad of regulatory agencies, there are several proposals which are much harder to oppose and hopefully make it into the 2018 budget that ultimately gets passed. The budget limits subsidies to farmers who earn over half a million dollars each year and starts to finally get the government out of the food industry. It also slows the growth of the government pension program and requires higher contribution amounts from federal employees who would be obliged to match the federal contribution to the benefit. While workers in the private sector dream of a 100% 401(k) employer match, federal employee unions and their allies will no doubt decry this proposal as the worst possible thing that could ever happen.
The “New Foundation for American Greatness” may never see a drop of concrete poured thanks to opposition from both the left and the GOP. However, it puts into writing the president’s priorities and lays out many interesting proposals. Several of the ideas for ways to change the federal government and reduce the deficit warrant serious consideration. President Trump has opened the negotiating process for the 2018 budget with a plan which calls for tough decisions and places many previously untouchable programs in the crosshairs. By forcing a dialogue about the cuts needed to balance the budget, this proposal may be laying a foundation after all.