By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
The budget blueprint to fund the federal government being proposed by the Trump Administration was created straight from Donald Trump’s campaign speeches, and would reflect “hard power, not soft power,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a press briefing to which a limited number of reporters were able to listen in by phone but not participate in asking questions.
The budget increases defense spending by $54 billion (10%), and lavishes spending on border patrol and building a wall, while slashing the budgets of the State Department by 28% and Environmental Protection Agency by 31% (eliminating 3000 jobs), and cutting out altogether funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and spending on the arts and humanities, as well as Meals on Wheels and $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program that supported affordable housing.
While it is unlikely that this budget proposal will actually get passed – any responsible Congressman or Senator will decry the cuts to programs that benefit their communities and constituents, while weakening the United States influence in global geopolitics, it reveals so starkly Trump’s values and priorities and fleshes out what his vision of “Make America Great Again” really means. And, as the New York Times noted, “In Trump’s Plan, Some Parts of America Are More First than Others.”
These are Mulvaney’s comments:
“This is an America First Budget. I wrote it using the President’s own words. I went through his speeches, articles, talked to him. I wanted to know his policies and turned into numbers. He is an America’s First candidate, this is an America First budget – more money on defense, $54 B; more for security at then border; for enforcing the laws on the books; for private and public school choice.
“I wanted to do that without adding to the $488 budget deficit – so there are dollar for dollar decreases.
“Because we punched up $54 billion for defense, we will cut $54 billion elsewhere. This accomplishes his priorities without adding to the deficit.
“The reductions are where you would expect from a president who ran on America First: the State Department. EPA. Many agencies, as he tries to frame government by efficiencies, will go after programs.
“If he said it on the campaign, it’s in the budget.
“We worked closely with the Defense department – that it funds their needs, but in a responsible fashion in terms of what they could spend this year. Defense [General Mattis] said this is what is needed this year, and they could spend effectively. We are not throwing money after problem. This was done in a responsible fashion.
“As for reductions: there are dramatic reductions in the State Department – that is not a commentary on the president’s policy on the State Department, but what’s in their budget:
“Foreign aid line items happen to fall within State department function. We are spending less overseas and more at home. When implemented, we will reduce foreign aid – but if the item had been in the Department of Education, you would see the cut there, if impacting Energy, you would see it there. More items [slated to be cut] fall under the State Department, which will see a fairly significant, 28% reduction.”
Asked about how this budget does not lower the budget deficit or the national debt, he acknowledged that there will still be a budget deficit.
“The commentary on deficits is that he wanted to accomplish all these things – defense, immigration, law enforcement, without adding to the deficit. Previous administrations had priorities and borrowed.
About the cuts to EPA, Mulvaney said, “We absolutely believe – as in the State Department – the core functions of EPA can be satisfied with this budget” even with cuts of one-third the budget and 3000 jobs.
“Ordinarily, a president’s budget says you will take this budget and make cuts there. We’ve given tremendous amount of flexibility within agencies. I can’t say about job reductions, that will be up to [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt.
“The actual budget blueprint which will hit the highlights – funding for agency, bullet points as to where to bump up or lower spending. You won’t see a spread sheet line by line – it will be up to agencies to implement.
Part of 2017 supplemental Trump is seeking, Mulvaney said, includes “$30 billion for defense and the border, including $1.5 billion for the wall this year. There are proposed reductions for 2017 also. More spending for defense, border enforcement, reductions elsewhere, money for the wall.”
Asked whether the administration is mindful of the “potential risk of reducing foreign aid,” Mulvaney said, “This is a hard power budget, not a soft power budget. That was done intentionally. The president very clearly wants to send message to adversaries and allies that this is a hard power president. We are moving money from soft power to hard power – that’s what adversaries, allies can expect.
“I implement the president’s policy. He decides what he wants to do.”
Since this is “an America First budget, which he campaigned on,” how does the budget fulfill his promise on the campaign trail to fix cities? How is Housing & Urban Development (HUD) affected?
“One of the other things he said was to go after waste, programs that don’t work, and a lot of those are in HUD – spent a lot in HUD without a lot to show for it. A lot of programs we cannot justify their existence for.
“But don’t discount the infrastructure program. That was done intentionally – Department of Transportation. Line item reductions. We are moving programs out of inefficient programs and hold money for efficient.
“We are moving money around in HUD. I spoke to [HUD Secretary Ben] Carson, who, if he came to president and said look, you gave me this pot of money, I want to move out of these programs and into new ones, he would have tremendous flexibility.”
As to how much money Trump intends to spend on building the wall across the southern border, he said, “We haven’t decided – haven’t settled on construction types, where to start. Funding provides for some pilot pieces, different kinds of barriers, different kinds of places, as we find most the most cost-efficient, safest, most effective border protection. $1.5 b allows us to start, $2.6 billion in 2018 – as we get to a full budget in May we will also start seeing projections out 10 years.
Asked how tax cuts factor in, Mulvaney said, “This is not a tax policy document. This is a spending budget. $1 trillion of the budget is discretionary. If we spend a discretionary dollar somewhere, we take a dollar from somewhere else. This blueprint stays within those lanes.
Asked where the $1.5 billion for the wall is coming from, he said, “We didn’t say we need $1.5 billion for the wall, so let’s reduce education. We dealt with it more holistically. We went looking for the most inefficient, wasteful, indefensible programs in other areas.”
As for federal workforce reductions, he said, “There is a great deal of discretion to [cabinet] secretaries.”
Asked whether the budget proposal assumes the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, he said, “This is ancillary to ACA. Generally no. That would be reflected in the larger budget in May.”
What about funding for curing diseases, exploring other planets?
“NASA reduced 1% – a lot of programs in there are increased in line with the president’s priorities – exploring other planets. He changed one of the missions – the moon, Saturn – I can’t remember the details. The general response is consistent: space exploration is a priority.”
“Curing disease – a young woman was at the Joint Congressional address who had an orphan disease, which means it is so rare, it doesn’t encourage free market response. Our budget preserves the ability to do that.” [The budget proposal cuts funding to the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion, or 20%.]
As for enforcing the Paris Agreement, the Clean Power Plan, CAFE Standards, Mulvaney said, “You can expect reductions in EPA that line up with the president’s view on global warming and efficiency. To the extent there are reductions, that would be one of the places.”
See details from New York Times:
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