White House budgets are often said to be “dead in the water” when they arrive in Congress, but few if any have ever been quite so dead as the budget that Donald Trump will deliver on Monday. Trump’s budget would wildly inflate the military, plow billions into his “Space Force,” drastically cut many domestic programs, funnel huge amounts of money into an emergency-declaration friendly slush fund, and still leave the budget wildly out of balance for decades.
Once upon a time, the budget from the executive branch was an item of serious study by Congress. Even when there were disagreements, it was often taken as a template for how to approach the upcoming year. But that when was executives delivered a serious budget rather than using the occasion to deliver what amounts to a 200 page tweet intended more as a message to Trump’s base than a serious proposal.
At the moment, most domestic spending is still saddled with caps that force departments and programs to move forward year by year under awkward constraints set in the 2011 Budget Control Act, no matter what the needs. As ABC News reports, defense spending is also supposed to be reigned in by the same act, but Trump’s proposal would address that by taking the small Overseas Contingency Operation fund and inflating it to a $174 billion slush fund operating outside of budget constraints — and under Trump’s ability to spend as he likes.
While setting aside enough money to build a gold-plated wall on every border, the Washington Post reports that Trump’s budget has a major target for cuts—poor people. Programs to fight poverty would see huge cuts under claims that they “discourage people from returning to work.” What would encourage them? Cuts to food assistance. Cuts to public housing. Cuts to Medicaid. Because nothing gets people up and working like being starving, sick, and homeless.
Programs that are supposed to guard the public health and environment would also see massive cuts—though since the last two years have seen a reduction in the number of criminal prosecution by the EPA to a level not seen since there has been an EPA, it’s not clear that these program cuts would make much difference under Trump.
Overall, Trump’s budget would do the same thing he’s already done—steal from the poor, give to the wealthy, inflate the military, and provide even more money that he could use as he wills, no matter what Congress says. Which is why, on this proposal at least, Congress will say no.
At least Trump wouldn’t have to fret another infrastructure week, because his budget also makes draconian cuts to transportation budgets. Forget high speed rail. Or rail. Along with any effort to address America’s crumbling bridges and roads.
Even with a slush fund larger than the budget of most nations, Trump’s budget still includes many billions more for his wall. And it bursts the budget on the military—including billions to start up the Space Force—even though Trump last week announced plans to begin charging allies billions for the “privilege” of hosting American troops, a move that seems likely to greatly reduce the number of forces deployed in Europe and Asia.
The other thing Trump’s budget would do is blow up the deficit that Trump has already blown up. With Trump’s massive tax cut for the wealthy already draining the government of revenue, the red ink is flowing at levels no amount of domestic policy spending would address. Still, Trump’s team will insist that the budget will lead the nation into the black. But … only because Trump’s budget also contains expectations of unprecedented growth. Even so, it would take fifteen years before even these make-believe economic numbers catch up to Trump’s spending.
But then, Republicans no longer even pretend to care about the deficit. Until a Democrat is in the White House.