MCCARTHY: Trump’s budget is a reflection of his values


Photo by Brian Georgeson

Donald Trump addresses his supporters at a rally in Waukesha last year.

After the initial shock of the Trump budget proposal wore off, some dismissed it as wishful thinking. After all, Congress controls the purse strings, and Trump’s proposal is closer to a wish list than an actual blueprint. Even though Trump’s budget is unlikely to pass, it provides important insight into what the President values. This is especially revealing considering Trump’s frequent contradictions on the campaign trail. There is much in this document to concern conservatives and liberals alike.

It’s actually pretty easy to identify Trump’s biggest priorities. His proposal calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, $2.6 billion to jumpstart his southern border wall and $1.4 billion to fund school choice. At the same time, the proposal significantly cuts pretty much every major government agency, including a 31 percent decrease for the Environmental Protection Agency and a 29 percent decrease for the State Department. He also proposes slight increases for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Gone are programs like the National Endowment of the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which I defended in a previous column. Gone are Community Service and Development block grants which fund critical antipoverty services such as Meals on Wheels and encourages private sector investment in communities otherwise ignored. The budget also eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides heat to those who can’t afford it, and heavily defunds the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

The worst part of this budget is that it’s not actually fiscally conservative. Usually when Republicans try to slash critical programs and departments, it’s under the auspice of shrinking the deficit. While I would much prefer a budget that maintained funding for these programs, at least the Republican budgets of presidents past commit to fiscally conservative principles. Instead of cutting the deficit, Trump’s budget merely reallocates most of the cuts to pay for his defense spending increase.

During the campaign, Trump frequently highlighted his business acumen, yet he seems unfamiliar with the concept of return on investment. His budget would cut $239 million from the IRS, one of the few government departments that can concretely demonstrate a high rate of return for every dollar allocated to it. These cuts would further beleaguer an agency that even Trump’s treasury secretary claims is underfunded.

I don’t think I’m being particularly naïve when I say a budget is a moral document. No budget exists in a vacuum. There are real consequences for how we choose to allocate funds. It was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who famously said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

We have to ask ourselves what we collectively value as a country. Do we value our ability to promote American interests through diplomatic solutions? Then we cannot afford to shrink the State Department and eliminate American aid programs abroad. Do we still want to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable in our society? Then we cannot cut programs like Meals on Wheels and WIC. We especially cannot make these cuts in order to fund a department with an estimated $125 billion in administrative waste.

While we must wait for his full budget in May to see whether Trump will fulfill his campaign promise to leave Social Security and Medicare, two of the largest contributors to the deficit, alone, this document, much like the president himself, does not reflect American values.