The budget (proposal) from hell

1) To be clear, presidents propose budgets.  Congress makes budgets.  There will be big changes from what Trump proposed.

2) That said, budgets are a sign of priorities.  And Trump’s priorities are mean and stupid.  Oh so mean and oh so stupid.  But, he’s strong!  And, of course, he’ll make America great again.

3) Totally great idea to cut federal spending on medical research and the Centers for Disease Control.  I really cannot see any possible benefit from the government investing in such areas.

4) Alysa Rosenberg’s headline captures this part, “Targeting the arts is the laziest, stupidest way to pretend to cut the budget.”

I suppose I ought to take any sign that the Trump administration will operate by the normal rules of politics, rather than the spontaneous outbursts that defined his campaign and transition, as a good thing. But sometimes the regular beats of politics are stupid, and the early word on Trump’s first budget suggests that he’s going to use one of the dumber Republican fig leaves: pretending that eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are serious parts of a serious effort to cut the federal budget.

First, there’s the matter of the numbers. The National Endowment for the Arts requested a budget of $149.849 million for fiscal year 2017, while the National Endowment for the Humanities asked for $149.848 million. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s funding for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 is $445 million annually.

The total of $744.7 million is a tiny fraction of President Obama’s $4.15 trillion budget request. It’s less than half of what Jared Kushner paid for 666 Fifth Avenue in 2006. It’s only slightly more money than the $713 million in loans Trump reported that he holds in his public financial disclosures. It’s less than four times the $200 million in donations Trump’s nominee to be education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and her family have contributed to the Republican Party. Anyone who pretends that this is a particularly meaningful amount of money and that getting rid of it would be a serious step toward shrinking the federal government is trying very, very hard to delude the public.

Oh, I don’t know how much pretending this is a serious budgetary reform this is.  But, come on, arts are stupid and for liberal, coastal elitists.

5) Yglesias:

But Trump’s rhetoric, and now his spending blueprint, don’t just push back against techno-utopianism. They constitute a denial of the obvious truth that a prosperous society is necessarily going to be one that is evolving and changing over time.

Most Americans work in the service sector, and that was true 20 or 40 years ago, too. And even within the goods-producing sector, today’s highly paid jobs require more skills and training than their 1976 counterparts did. The country as whole, meanwhile, needs to continually develop whole new industries (generation, storage, and transmission of clean energy seems like the obvious candidate to me) to create new opportunities for new generations of people just as it did in the past.

One of the main things that was good about the “good old days” is that they were a time of massive progress, expansion of higher education opportunities into the middle class and rapid development of new products and cures. This happened while the government invested more — not less — on health, education, science, and regional development.

Trump’s budget acknowledges none of that. It slashes funding for medical research, for physical sciences, and for scholarship and culture generally. It cuts deeply into education and training programs it regards (oftentimes wrongly) as ineffective or poorly evaluated. But it only puts a fraction of that money back into other ones it likes better, while crushing science programs that Trump’s own Cabinet was praising earlier this month.

6) OMB director Mulvaney literally says that cutting “meals on wheels” and similar programs is “compassionate.”  Also, he lied, and says these programs don’t work.  They do.

7) To be fair to Trump, these truly gross cuts to the poor and most vulnerable are not particularly Trumpian, but very much in the mainstream of Republican (“hammock for the poor”) thinking.  It’s quite unlikely they will be as extreme as Trump suggests, but suggesting such extreme cuts tells us who’s side Trump is really on (as if there were ever any doubt).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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