Democrats railing against President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, which calls for some of the deepest cuts to government entitlement programs in decades, are arguing that the populist Republican is pushing an agenda that will make life harder for many of his rural supporters.
The budget revealed by the Trump administration calls for nearly $1 trillion in cuts to various domestic spending programs over the next decade– but it also comes with big spending increases for the military.
Here’s a pretty good summary via POLITICO:
That includes a $600 billion cut to Medicaid over 10 years, despite Trump’s repeated promises on the campaign trail not to cut the program. The budget also takes an ax to the federal food stamp program and Social Security Disability Insurance.
Trump also proposes some of the deepest cuts to agriculture subsidies since Ronald Reagan, squeezing out nearly $50 billion over 10 years.
Trump’s budget would drastically cut domestic programs controlled by Congress, slashing $1.7 trillion over 10 years. At the end of the decade, the U.S. would spend nearly twice as much on defense as on other domestic programs. Domestic discretionary spending would be capped at $429 billion per year, below 2004 levels, while military spending soars to $722 billion.
Defense hawks in the GOP are championing the budget proposal. Other Republicans are praising Trump’s budget for including additional federal work requirements for welfare benefits. The Trump White House’s effort to offer deep spending cuts with little effect on Medicare and Social Security spending is also extremely appealing to lawmakers from conservative districts whose voter bases are largely made up of retired Americans.
Democrats, meanwhile, are scrambling to point how Trump’s budget will affect poor Americans living in rural districts in what appears to be an effort to turn the populist appeal that rocketed Trump into the Oval Office against the president.
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the president’s budget proposal would make life harder for the millions of rural working poor who voted for him in November by cutting programs that provide federal dollars to indigent care at rural hospitals.
“Hurting healthcare in rural America, hurting jobs places that need help…the Trump budget along with Trumpcare, seeking $800 billion dollars in cuts to Medicaid, would decimate healthcare options for rural Americans and pull the plug on many rural hospitals,” Schumer said. “When you add all of it up, the Trump budget is comic book villain bad. And just like comic books, it relies on a fantasy to make all of it work.”
The New York lawmaker later added: “It’s the latest example of the president breaking his promises to working Americans… this budget breaks promise after promise after promise to [the people Trump] called Forgotten America… the working men and women of America.”
And the Democrat push appears to be working, at least among GOP lawmakers who represent Republican voters in areas that receive federal funding via block grants under threat in the Trump budget. An Associated Press report Monday detailed how a number of key Republicans are planning to work to eliminate a provision to cut the grant programs from the budget.
And speaking to POLITICO last week, longtime House Appropriations Committee member Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rodgers said he was “deeply concerned” about Trump’s cuts to domestic spending.
POLITICO noted: “Rogers has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s proposed cuts to programs that benefit rural regions like his home state, like the Appalachian Regional Commission.”
There are many more Republicans who will fall in this camp, mostly because talk of domestic spending isn’t quite as simple as welfare for people who refuse to work. Much of the government spending on domestic programs is funneled through grant programs targeted at the rural poor– and the GOP lawmakers who represent those districts rely on that funding to build goodwill with voters.
What about true conservatives?
All in all, for conservatives who believe the welfare state has grown out of control, Trump’s budget is a pretty appealing document. The cuts it includes to farm subsidies and domestic handouts are substantial enough to at least put the nation on track to repairing the deficit.
Still, from a truly conservative standpoint Trump’s document has some problems. While many GOP voters don’t want to hear it, no amount of cuts to domestic welfare programs are going to completely right the American ship until Congress makes some tough choices regarding Medicare and Social Security. Both of those programs continue to grow more burdensome every year as Americans live longer– we’re simply no longer putting in enough for what is coming out. Trump’s call for increased military spending is also a little problematic. Headline after headline in recent years has illustrated for the American voting public the egregious ways in which the military-industrial complex wastes taxpayer money on pointless boondoggles and cronyism.
As it is written now, Trump’s budget would have military spending make up two-thirds of the government’s outgoing expenditures in the next decade.
If the administration’s “Taxpayer First” budget document is to live up to its name, it needs a serious plan to audit the Pentagon’s spending in the same way that it wishes to audit how the federal government doles out money to poor Americans.
And this is something that Congress has full power to do. One thing that politicians arguing over the president’s budget seldom point out is that it is purely a political document. Lawmakers hold the power of the purse and are ultimately responsible for every penny wasted. Unfortunately, not many are willing to take on the powerful lobby backed by the military-industrial complex.
Ultimately, Americans watching the budget talks unfold in the weeks ahead should prepare for disappointment. There’s enough push back growing on Capitol Hill to eliminate any of the more meaningful domestic spending cuts Trump has proposed and the Pentagon remains a sacred cow.
At the end of negotiations, expect domestic largess to remain and military spending to increase.
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