President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget breaks with Republican orthodoxy on domestic programs, funds programs he threatened to cut, increases spending where he called for less, and cuts parts of government he promised not to touch.
Much like his approach to managing the presidency, Trump’s debut budget has proven to be unpredictable, controversial and confusing – even to budget experts across Washington.
Here’s POLITICO’s look at the contradictions and unrealistic projections spattered throughout the lengthy budget proposal:
Trump’s proposing to cut some of the very same government programs he’s also promised to expand. Case in point: Trump has proposed shoring up the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, but his budget calls for cuts to Department of Transportation programs, requesting about $76 billion compared to with DOT’s current appropriation of more than $77 billion. The document reiterates the administration’s calls for eliminating a popular grant program for state and local transportation projects. And it recommends cutting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ construction account by more than 50 percent, leaving the nation’s builder of locks, dams, levees and ports with about $1 billion to do that work.
The budget also proposes to cut IRS funding by about 2 percent, despite Trump’s insistence on reforming the tax code this year — a process expected to be initially time consuming and costly as the tax-collecting agency adjusts to new mandates. And Trump’s proposal calls for slashing funding for career and technical education by more than $1 billion despite the president’s vow to “start it up big league” for vocational education.
Never mind about those cuts
Trump has backed off some of the cuts he proposed in the preliminary “skinny budget” in March, agreeing not to kill popular programs like the Office of National Drug Control, which would retain roughly the same $370 million budget after the president initially called for a 95 percent reduction. The Minority Business Development Agency, which the White House once called “duplicative,” would also retain some funding — but just $6 million of its current $32 million budget.
But many of the 62 agencies and programs Trump proposed to eliminate in his “skinny budget” would still be on the chopping block. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps poor families pay to heat their homes, would be zeroed out entirely. Programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Tennessee Valley Authority would be wound down. The McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, which helps provide school meals in the poorest countries, would be axed. And dozens of grants and loans — including those for specialty crops, energy technologies, refugee assistance and minority businesses — would be eliminated.
The White House is also standing firm on its cuts to the National Institutes of Health, even after criticism from GOP lawmakers. The final budget would cut $6 billion from the agency, including $1 billion from cancer research.
Spending more than promised
Despite the emphasis on cost cutting, the White House is actually proposing to spend more on some of its major policy priorities, showing a willingness to sign off on direct spending for things like infrastructure investment and health care access for veterans. Over 10 years, the administration expects its plan for state-sponsored family leave to cost the federal government $19 billion. To raise ceilings for defense spending, the White House has estimated a cost of $469 billion over a decade. And the Trump administration projects winding down the Overseas Contingency Operations fund — a war account not subject to budget caps — would cost $593 billion over a decade.
Pay raise cuts for troops
Trump promised that the core of his budget would be “rebuilding the nation’s military,” but while there’s $54 billion in increased defense spending, he’d shave off $1.4 billion over a decade by lowering planned troop pay raises to 2.1 percent from 2.4 percent.
Wildly optimistic economic growth
Administration officials have proudly advertised the president’s budget as a plan to eliminate the deficit within 10 years. But that dream hinges on several ambitious assumptions that Congress will pass all of Trump’s priorities. The biggest sum would come from a “two-penny” plan to cut domestic spending by 2 percent each year, racking up a whopping $1.4 trillion in assumed savings in an already-thinning part of the federal budget.
Then for a combined total of more than $1.6 trillion in extra cash for deficit reduction, Trump is banking on Congress taking action on dozens of reforms, including revamping the federal welfare apparatus, financial industry regulations, agriculture subsidies — and, of course, Obamacare. The administration is assuming $616 billion in savings over 10 years from changes to the Children’s Health Insurance Program alone. And Trump is counting just over $2 trillion by predicting the economy will double its growth rate.