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Trump Preframes the Budget Conversation with His “Blueprint”

Saturday, March 18, 2017 5:50
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This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 17, 2017: 

After reading Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal, “Peter W.” wrote how “The Donald” preframes a conversation with an opponent: “When he makes an opening bid, it is far away from where his deals end. It is a poker game with high stakes, and it is up to the other to negotiate a better position.”

That is what Trump and his OMB Director Mick Mulvaney offered on Wednesday: the opening bid in the budget conversation to take place later on this year. Mulvaney was very clear about that: “This Blueprint is not the full Federal budget, [but] it does provide lawmakers and the public with a view of the priorities of the President and his Administration.”

It also serves to warn the public – the American taxpayer who is the deeply interested third party in that conversation – that the budget is going to be much larger than the one Obama left his office with in 2017, which was $4.15 trillion.

It’s called “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” and it’s Trump’s attempt to set the parameters of the conversation with Congress after his full budget is released in late May. The strategy might have worked well for Trump – he brags that he successfully closed more than 100 real estate “deals” during his career – but dealing with 535 members of the House and Senate is, to put it mildly, going to be a different cup of tea.

Said Trump:

My Budget Blueprint for 2018

Provides for one of the largest increases in defense spending without increasing the debt;

Significantly increases the budget for immigration enforcement…

Includes additional resources for a wall on the Southern border with Mexico…

Increases funding to address violent crime… and

Puts America first by keeping more of America’s hard-earned tax dollars here at home.

His plan is to fund the $54 billion increase in defense spending in 2018 through “targeted reductions elsewhere.” He didn’t mention that “elsewhere” in the federal budget is severely limited to about one sixth of the total budget, thanks to mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) and interest payments on the national debt. He failed to suggest the size of the budget to be presented in May, nor did he refer to former President Obama’s last budget, which spent $4.15 trillion while collecting far less than that, resulting in a deficit approaching $600 billion. The president didn’t say anything about the national debt, now crowding $20 trillion and likely to hit $25 trillion during his administration’s first term.

Instead, he glossed over all those incidentals:

The defense and public safety spending increases in this Budget are offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the Federal Government. Our Blueprint insists on $54 billion in reductions to non-Defense spending programs.

We are going to do more with less, and make the Government lean and accountable to the people.

It’s going to take a tank car full of pixie dust to accomplish this. His blueprint names the agencies he wants to defund, including several that social conservatives have targeted for decades:

The African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the [Mississippi] Delta Regional Authority; the Denali [Alaska] Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Constitutionally most of these shouldn’t even exist. But financially, is there enough here to keep Trump’s promise to increase defense spending by $54 billion without increasing the deficit? A look at just four of the most “toxic” cuts – the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the two National Endowments (Arts and Humanities), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) – reveals the answer, and Trump and Mulvaney’s problem. Those four cuts – $445 million for the CPB, $150 million each for the endowments, and $230 million for the IMLS – amount to less than one billion dollars out of a $4 trillion-plus budget. Or, put another way, Trump and Mulvaney would still have $53 billion to go in keeping their promise not to add to the deficit.

And there’s still the wall to be built (the “blueprint” contains $2.6 billion for that, with the balance of the estimated $20 billion to come from somewhere else), and the infrastructure restoration program of another trillion.

Trump’s “blueprint” preframes the conversation, but is anyone in Congress listening? They’ve got their collective hands full dealing with healthcare and confirmation hearings. And then there’s tax reform. And once Trump has their attention, how is that conversation likely to go? Especially when he threatens various pet projects long supported by Progressives who care little if anything for Constitutional restraints or budget deficits.

What his “blueprint” does do for the American taxpayer, however, is that it sets him up for the likely final outcome: a budget approaching $4.5 trillion if not more, with deficits of a trillion dollars a year for as far out as the eye can see.



Amazon: Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Budget Seeks Big Cuts to Environment, Arts, Foreign Aid

The Wall Street Journal: Four Themes in Trump’s Budget Blueprint

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Budget’s Deepest Cuts: Which Agencies Would Be Eliminated Trump Budget Proposes Killing All Funding for PBS, NPR, and National Endowment for the Arts

History of the US budget

The budget Blueprint

2017 Obama federal budget:  $4.15 trillion


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