May 23, The New York Times on President Trump’s budget:
If President Trump’s 2018 budget, to be unveiled on Tuesday, was worthy of praise, you can bet Mr. Trump would be in Washington to bask in it. But his overseas trip keeps him at a distance physically, if not politically.
As detailed in a preview on Monday by Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, the budget is a naked appeal to far-right Republicans aiming for a partisan rallying cry, even as a legislative victory most likely remains out of reach.
Of 13 major initiatives in the budget, nine are drastic spending cuts, mostly aimed at low-income Americans. The biggest of those, by far, is an $866 billion reduction over 10 years in health care spending, mostly from Medicaid. That would be achieved if the Senate approves the House bill to undo President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But many Senate Republicans oppose it; Senate Democrats are dead set against it and the vast majority of Americans don’t want it, and for good reason. It would deprive an estimated 10 million low-income Americans, many of them nursing home residents, of Medicaid benefits; it would also defund Planned Parenthood, reducing or ending health services to 2.5 million people, mainly women.
The budget also calls for slashing food stamps ($192 billion over 10 years) and disability benefits ($72 billion over 10 years), including a big chunk from the Social Security disability insurance program. The rationale is that the cuts would force Americans back to work. But some 60 percent of food stamp recipients already work and an estimated 15 percent more work most of the time, availing themselves of food stamps only when they are between jobs or when their hours are reduced. The remainder are disabled and elderly. They will not go back to work if their food stamps are reduced. They will go hungry.
The cuts to Social Security disability benefits would be similarly cruel. The budget assumes the cutbacks would prod disabled people back to work. That assumption ignores how severely disabled most benefit recipients are. The cuts also ignore Mr. Trump’s pledge not to cut Social Security. Mr. Mulvaney walked back that pledge on Monday, saying the promise pertained only to retirement benefits.
The budget also continues the practice outlined in Mr. Trump’s “skinny” budget preview from March of immense defense increases coupled with deep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, the catchall category that includes all of the federal programs that are annually appropriated by Congress. By the end of the 10-year budget period, such spending — for law enforcement, diplomacy, environmental protection, scientific research, justice, arts and humanities, tax collection and entire executive branch departments — would be lower as a share of the economy than in records dating back more than 50 years.
The budget leaves Medicare spending untouched. It also promises to help finance $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, which is likely to mean subsidizing private investors in roads, bridges and other public works in exchange for a share of what used to be thought of as public property. It lists a $19 billion paid family leave program that appears to be supported by funds intended for unemployment benefits.
What it lacks is any meaningful discussion of taxes. The budget asserts that any cuts would be offset by revenue from huge economic growth, unspecified loophole closings or additional spending cuts.
The truth is that trillion-dollar tax cuts, most of which would flow to the wealthy, would hurt millions of other Americans. The nation will not prosper by cutting aid to sick, hungry, disabled and low-income Americans, or by boosting military spending while devastating domestic spending, or by privatizing infrastructure.