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No, Trump's Irrelevant Budget Doesn't Cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security

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If there’s one thing you can count on from Washington (besides death and taxes), it’s annual hysterics over the presidential budget proposal. What makes those hysterics even more obscene is that the presidential budget proposal never comes law. Never. Not even once. It’s as relevant as State of the Union wishlists.

Ever since Paul Ryan became the scion of Republican budgeting in 2008, the main fiscal argument against the GOP has been that they want to cut or eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. Even though 2016 proved that lol nothing matters, this year is no different, as the first argument out of the gate against President Trump’s proposed budget is that it cuts all three.

It doesn’t, of course.

Spending for all three programs increases dramatically over the 10-year budget plan, with Medicare spending actually doubling in 2027.

Even in the world of Fake News™, how can anyone call these “cuts”? Because in Washington, DC, numbers don’t start at zero.

Ever since the Budget Act of 1974, the federal government has used baseline budgeting to determine spending levels. That means that when writing a new budget, each program and department doesn’t start at zero, but at the previous level plus an inflation adjustment. Other than Congress specifically repealing a program, there are no “cuts” anymore, especially to mandatory-spending entitlement programs, only reductions in the rate of growth.

If the CBO estimates based on current spending levels that Social Security will spend $2 trillion in 2027, but the proposed budget outlays its spending at $1.7 trillion, Washington considers it a “cut”. It isn’t. Words mean things.

This all matters even less so because of the congressional crutch of continuing resolutions. Congress has only passed a full budget once in the last 8 years. Every other year, they’ve relied on last minute partial CRs to continue most spending levels at baseline+inflation so they don’t actually have to debate spending levels, government priorities, and taxpayer outrage.


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