March 16th, 2017

Trump’s budget proposal

I look on it as Trump’s opening bid in a series of negotiations.

The MSM has predictably wailed about the meanness of it all. If you don’t want to wade through that, I think that Ed Morrissey has a fair summary of what’s in the proposal:

Say hello to the wall, a bigger military, and more robust immigration enforcement. Say goodbye to subsidies for public broadcasting, the arts, and a lot of what the EPA does now. The White House has released its so-called “skinny budget,” and it has winners and losers…

His post goes on to list and describe them, and adds this overview:

Pushing responsibility to states for all these purposes has been Republican doctrine for decades. Many of these programs started as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society plan, but have produced not much more than stasis in these areas, in part (arguably, anyway) from a lack of accountability. Rather than have states and local authorities keep the resources and deal with problems that they know best, the federal government took over those tasks while taking the resources away, and then tried to apply one-size-fits-all approaches to them.

Republicans face a couple of problems in attempting to implement this paradigm shift now. First, states won’t necessarily get their resources back in the exchange, as the federal government will still need to fund its course of deficit spending, especially with entitlement reform on the back shelf. That leaves the vulnerable without much hope of a safety net. Second, it’s tougher politically to stop a federal program on which people depend than it is to not start it in the first place — a dynamic that will apply to entitlement reform too. Finally, while Republicans have talked plenty about deregulation and federalism, they haven’t won too many converts; it took a populist uprising rather than a conservative-federalist uprising to win the White House this time. The irony is that Trump’s budget takes the GOP much farther down that latter road than they’ve dared going themselves since Reagan.

…[T]he budget fight will show whether Republicans decide to fight for their federalist vision…

Morrissey concludes that Republicans will balk somewhat. I agree.

I want to add that cutting money to a department doesn’t inevitably mean gutting it. It can mean streamlining and focusing it. But government isn’t very good at that. The story of government in the last century has been mostly an inexorable increase in what the feds do and how much money they say they need to do it.

Putting aside all the vagaries and problems inherent in Donald Trump’s being the president who happens to be delivering this message right now, would the message itself ever fly? Are Congress and the federal government capable of backing it? Is the American public capable of accepting it? Or does the behemoth inevitably grow?

34 Responses to “Trump’s budget proposal”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Goodbye NPR. Libs can fund it themselves.

  2. DNW Says:

    I have been looking at reports that Yellen is planning on a Fed rate increase soon … have to tamp down this blazing Midwestern economy.

    So my brother called asking about business in general, and noting that while their new car sales are strong, the service operations have fallen off dramatically, indicating that those who need to repair rather than replace, have hit a wall at which they can do neither.

    I told him that he should know better than to take news reports on the economy seriously, having an MBA and all.

    I also told him what he should have realized himself: that given the current make up of the economy, we have reached a point wherein it is almost necessary to hammer the manufacturing middle class at the least sign that they are recovering across the board: since, that is the only segment of purchasers wherein demand is comparatively elastic; and although tax increases have of course some effect on discretionary spending and aggregate demand when it comes to government employees, their demand should be relatively constant as compared to the private sector, because their income is relatively so.

    It seems pretty apparent that: The class of transfer and welfare payment recipients plus government employees, is to the free-market producer as regards purchasing, as the class of entitlements in the budget is to the Military in budgetary reduction.

    In other words the only viable target.

    It’s my personal opinion that given the employment structure of this country, it is almost imperative that the flyover middle class of producers be kept at constantly, lest their recovery of prosperity and an increase in demand drive up prices. They seem to be the most susceptible segment of the purchasing economy when it comes to policy options.

    And it looks like Trump means to change that.

    The untouchables might become less so.

    Listen to the screams …

  3. J.J. Says:

    Moat people are not aware of how the Feds have approached budgeting since Obama was elected. First they rammed through the Stimulus (Porkulus) bill of $831 billion dollars. Then by never again passing a budget spending bill, only continuing resolutions, (all orchestrated by Harry Reid), they made the stimulus a regular part of the budget. Additionally, when they pass CRs, the typical procedure is to just add 8% to most spending. Anything less than an 8% increase is considered to be a “cut” in spending.

    The GOP tried to decrease the effect of the stimulus bill in the budget. What they got was the “sequester”, where domestic spending was cut, but also had to cut military spending. A typical Democrat “compromise” – cut the government’s real mission of national defense while continuing all the SJW and pork barrel programs.

    Trump’s budget takes into account the real mission of the Federal government. and begins the process of de-emphasizing the extra- constitutional optional activities such as welfare, support of Planned Parenthood, stifling business through increasing EPA regs, meddling in the housing market, meddling in the health care market and on and on. So much fat and waste to cut. At least it’s a start.

    When the Feds are no longer doling out money, it restricts their power. Most politicians, both R & D, don’t really want that. Bringing money “home” to their states/districts is a big part of their efforts to stay in office. Thus their resistance to cutting all those “necessary” government programs.

  4. RA FINLAY Says:

    I would expect any displaced Federal workers to be absorbed by Leftwing-funded NGOs or OFA entities, there to stimulate (or simulate) a counter-populist movement. There is no shortage of Leftist billionaires to fund it.

  5. Brian E Says:

    I think that Trump’s non-ideological approach allows him to make suggested cuts that Republicans wouldn’t make, so in essence, we’re getting more Reagan than Reagan.

    This is the initial offer, so neither Trump nor realistic conservatives should think this is where it will end up. But it does make liberals choose priorities– mostly in how they demagogue HIS choices. Do they emphasize NPR and Planned Parenthood at the expense of smaller bureaucracy?

    How much will Republicans aid the MSM in objecting to Trump’s proposed cuts? Will the likes of McCain, Graham, Collins and others make the job of retaining pork easier than it might be otherwise? Probably.

    Will the wall survive the budget? Probably, but only in a symbolic measure. Too many Republicans have a vested interest in illegal immigration to make to truly difficult for people to cross the border.

    Will Republicans really support significantly reducing the corporate tax rate? That’s a tough one. I suspect they’ll cave in the end. There will be a small reduction, but we’re never going to get to 20%, which is where it should be.

    I’ve said all along that we need to temper expectations. If Trump gets three or four significant changes to the Washington culture, his presidency will have been a success. That’s why I’m not sure conservatives should make the health care bill the hill to die on.

    It seems that there are two disparate components to the issue. Should Medicaid be expanded to include the working poor? A new entitlement according to conservatives (or enshrining it by giving it the Republicans blessings).
    The second issue is how to reduce health care premiums to the rest of us. And then the issue that seems to be ignored. How do we pay for it?

  6. Sergey Says:

    Administrative state is like hydra: it grows two heads instead of a severed one. Probably, it must be allowed to bankrupt itself as Soviet Communists did, and only than this dysfunctional ideology of nanny-state will eventually die. While the more wise people understand that the present situation can not last forever and even much longer than a decade, most of the people do not and still believe in liberal utopia. They need a real crisis with empty shelves in food stores or hyperinflation to see the reality.

  7. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    I have worked for a government agency in NH for years. For most of those years, I have told anyone who will listen “If you can’t cut costs artfully with a scalpel, because you are the expert who knows what is really needed, eventually someone will come in with a hatchet and do the job badly.”

    Trump may be wrong in many places, but those who refused to do their duty these last five decades have no grounds to complain anymore. A psychiatrist friend is fond of saying “You ordered it. You eat it.”

  8. parker Says:

    Cutting any federal agency or funding from organizations like NPR, PBS, PP, etc will have the msm shouting the cruel Trump is throwing granny off the cliff and all the usual wailing and finger pointing that accompanies any effort to rein in the behemoth. In the end very little will be done to turn around the ship of state.

  9. Griffin Says:

    So many of these Republicans campaign on cutting government and make grand points about NPR, the NEA and the EPA here we got a president that is ready to cut all these things and now will these supposed conservatives go along?

    Trump really is exposing these Republicans for the first time maybe.

  10. Chester Draws Says:

    If someone argues that the State must be cut, and then proposes only cutting it in areas that their opponents support, then they are fooling no-one.

    If Trump wanted to cut the State, then he would be proposing cuts across the board. Including those pork-barrel areas that Republicans love. That’s what you do when you are actually cutting back — you actually cut back. You don’t increase Defense spending in a cut-back.

    His proposal is not to cut back the State, then. But to stick it to the Democrats.

  11. Griffin Says:

    Chester:

    But if you think Defense is the primary role of the federal government then you cut other areas and strengthen that.

  12. expat Says:

    This is totally OT, but perhaps you would like to read an excellent description of the situation in Germany with Merkel, Erdogan, and the Turks who live here.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/erdogan-and-turkish-referendum-divides-german-society-a-1138272.html

    Talk about having to dance around topics.

    BTW, my new computer is now set up so my comments shouldn’t lack so many H’s and my computer won’t freeze constantly.

  13. Yancey Ward Says:

    I don’t expect any of this budget to get enacted, which will confirm something many of us probably already knew- Republicans in Congress are mainly full of shit.

  14. Brian E Says:

    The health care bill is just the beginning of a forced marriage that may quickly sour.

    Republicans can probably accept the Trump isn’t a conservative, and while his cabinet appears conservative, Trump isn’t.

    Conservatives need to accept that Trump isn’t one of them and the platform he ran on both converges and diverges with their positions, and they need to decide right now, on the health care bill whether they are willing to compromise now in hopes of pushing their agenda in other areas.

    And that probably means accepting Medicaid expansion that is block granted to the states. That alone would be a significant achievement.

    Here’s the problem, IMO, for the past 20 years the lower wage earners have been slowly eroded by the effects of free trade– a trade policy that conservatives have championed. It has made low wage earners more dependent on government than ever. They can’t just ignore the effects with market babble– and how great it’s been for the economy as a whole.

    Now is Medicaid expansion to 139% of the poverty level just the slow march to Medicare for all? Probably if conservatives can’t fix the other component– a more robust market for health care services. We’re just nibbling around the edges with health insurance reforms. As has been stated many times before, health insurance isn’t health care.

    If conservatives are unwilling to compromise at this point the populist-conservative coalition collapses.

  15. Tuvea Says:

    I’d be happy if the budget just doesn’t INCREASE.

    Any decrease, even by a small %, would just be icing on the cake.

  16. Lizzy Says:

    Yes, an opening bid.

    It changes the conversation/negotiations from “What can we cut?” to “What can we not live without?”.

    I like Mulvaney’s way of looking at it as “Can I ask a [regular American] pay for this?” And further, that they were actually trying to find evidence of past success as an indicator of something *deserving* future funding. Moving from government mindset of Unsuccessful = Needs more $$$ to a business mindset of Unsuccessful = Not worth wasting anymore time & $$$ on it; move on.

    Major, and much-needed paradigm shift.

  17. Montage Says:

    I find Mulvaney’s views to be rather absurd because he doesn’t seem to understand the basic way in which representative government works. Congress has never been able to get all Americans to agree on a budget. But why would they? Programs are supported by the needs of various kinds of peoples in various parts of the country; if you have kids then public education makes sense, if you’re elderly then meal-on-wheels might make sense, if you’re in the South you have different programs than if you are in the West. The idea is to represent the MANY different parts of America.

    He says “We can’t ask coal miners or single moms to pay for Public Broadcasting” and I say WHY NOT? Do coal miners or single moms never listen to NPR or watch PBS? Does he think PBS is ONLY Sesame Street? Along that line of thinking; He seems to be saying if you have no kids then you should not be expected to pay into public education. If you don’t drive you should not be expected to pay for highways. If you don’t like to read you should not be expected to pay for libraries. Screw everyone else who likes or needs those things. If they want to slash the budget on all these programs then they should at least understand the basic way representative government runs. I like many programs, YOU may like many programs I don’t like. So what? This is America. We can share the fruits of our taxation. And we can still have an awesome military.

  18. parker Says:

    expat,

    Thanks for the link. What a conundrum for both Germans and Turks both in Turkey and Germany. Something will have to give, and it sounds like it will turn ugly.

    Tuvea,

    No growth would indeed be a positive step. But the resistance to even a 2% cut is frustrating. If a competent administrator can not find a means of functioning with such a small cut, he or she is not a competent administrator.

  19. J.J. Says:

    Montage: “if you’re in the South you have different programs than if you are in the West. The idea is to represent the MANY different parts of America.”

    What we have is the Federal government spending tax payers’ money from people who won’t benefit from the program. An example: The Feds built the Colorado River Big Thompson project that benefitted primarily the citizens of Colorado – especially the farmers, although cheap hydro-electric power was also produced for Colorado consumers. The project could have been financed and built by the State of Colorado. Instead, the taxpayers of the other (at that time) 47 states helped pay for it. The only major infrastructure program the Feds ever built, that made sense to tax all citizens for, was the Interstate Highway system. And that was originally visualized by Eisenhower as a means to move military convoys quickly from place to place. The fact that it increased interstate commerce was a bonus.

    The Federal government’s Constitutional mission is defense, national law enforcement , foreign diplomacy, and regulation of interstate commerce. All the other things they are involved in are extra-Constitutional and optional. If the Feds got out of all those other programs, you would be amazed how much more money states and localities would have to do their own welfare, medical programs, infrastructure, arts, and other things wanted by their citizens.

    Government is necessary, but that government that is closest to those affected is best. The Feds are remote, impersonal, and unresponsive to the real concerns of the citizens. Want a new bridge or highway in your city or state? Convince your fellow citizens that it’s a good use of their tax money. Don’t ask someone on the other side of the country to pay for it. NPR can go strictly from charity (listener donations – don’t you just enjoy the begging?) or a combination of charity and commercials to finance their operation. That way the listeners get what they want and those who never tune in don’t have to pay. Picking the pocket of those opposed to abortion to give money to Planned parenthood is just another example of the improper function of the Feds in robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  20. T Says:

    I want to add that cutting money to a department doesn’t inevitably mean gutting it. It can mean streamlining and focusing it. But government isn’t very good at that. The story of government in the last century has been mostly an inexorable increase in what the feds do and how much money they say they need to do it. Neo]

    Milton Friedman said:

    If you spend your own money on yourself you worry about quality and value.

    If you spend your own money on someone else you worry about value, not quality.

    If you spend someone else’s money on yourself you worry about quality nor value.

    If you spend someone else’s money on someone else you worry about neither value not quality.

    That last comment perfectly describes the government, why less government is better government, why the budget should be cut and cut repeatedly.

  21. T Says:

    “If you spend someone else’s money on yourself you worry about quality nornot value.”

  22. parker Says:

    J.J.,

    There is a subterranean fault issue in your response to Montage; logic and proportion falls soggy dead on his/her/its dogma. Dogma is the end all and be all for the Montage of the world.

  23. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Trump’s budget takes into account the real mission of the Federal government. and begins the process of de-emphasizing the extra- constitutional optional activities such as welfare, support of Planned Parenthood, stifling business through increasing EPA regs, meddling in the housing market, meddling in the health care market and on and on. So much fat and waste to cut. At least it’s a start.

    When the Feds are no longer doling out money, it restricts their power. Most politicians, both R & D, don’t really want that. Bringing money “home” to their states/districts is a big part of their efforts to stay in office. Thus their resistance to cutting all those “necessary” government programs.” J.J.

    JJ’s first paragraph above is what Trump is trying to accomplish and the beginning of what America should do to lessen the severity of a future fiscal collapse.

    JJ’s second paragraph is part of why it won’t happen. Leftist duplicity and a public unwilling to face facts are the other factors.

  24. parker Says:

    To go deeper, why should those NPR, PBS, NEA lovers not dig deeper into their own pockets to fund their mostly unavertised, desired mediums of expression? The answer is they want WV coal miners and single mothers to elect politicos who will gladly rob Paul to pay Peter to pay for their propaganda organs.

    Leftists know no shame.

  25. parker Says:

    GB,

    We, including the rest of the global economy, are headed for a collapse far beyond the imagination of the imaginations of 90+%. There is merely a chance to slow down the speed of the kicking of the can. More time to prep is a good thing.

  26. AesopFan Says:

    Excellent commentary – the business of government is laundering money (and in this case, acquiring power is equivalent to money), so the complicit officials will never reduce the amount that runs through their fingers.
    To repeat:
    T Says:
    March 16th, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Milton Friedman said:

    If you spend your own money on yourself you worry about quality and value.

    If you spend your own money on someone else you worry about value, not quality.

    If you spend someone else’s money on yourself you worry about quality not value.

    If you spend someone else’s money on someone else you worry about neither value not quality.

    .. but look only at what you can “make” out of the deal.

    I just hope we have enough people of integrity in Congress to put some of the money back where it belongs.

  27. AesopFan Says:

    Here’s a good explanation of Trump’s budget:
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trumps-budget-puts-washington-in-its-place/article/2617643

    “But President Trump’s blueprint tells a more important story to the close reader. The bigger question isn’t what agency needs how much money. It’s not even about efficiency.

    The bigger question is this: Which activities are properly performed by the federal government, and which activities are properly left to other bodies, such as states, local governments, the private sector or nonprofit organizations?

    For much of the Washington news media, cutting federal funding for something is the same as opposing that thing. Trump’s budget, however, makes a distinction that these critics miss. Federal funding should be for things that are best done by the federal government. Many things are better done at a level of government closer to the individual, or even outside government altogether.

    “Subsidiarity” is the word Catholics use to describe the principle that different functions are properly assigned to different levels of government or civil society. This idea runs subtly through Trump’s blueprint.”

    I’, pretty sure Trump has no idea about subsidiarity in religious organization, but some of his advisers either do know of it, or have the same idea via secular routes.

  28. Liz Says:

    One thing I noted about the first draft of this budget is that it is attempting to realign activities in their proper place. There is a lot of duplication in the government. Take the Meals on Wheels issue. Read this report from Reason and note the remarks from the national group.

    http://reason.com/blog/2017/03/16/seniors-wont-starve-if-meals-on-wheels-l

    MOW receives about 35% from the federal government – from the Older Americans Act administered by the Dept of Health & Human Services. Some local groups MAY receive some funds from the Community Block Grants program.

    However, the Community Block Grant program seems to support more corruption than anything else. http://reason.com/blog/2017/03/16/the-community-development-block-grant-pr

  29. huxley Says:

    I could go either way with Meals On Wheels — continue as is or cut it and let states figure it out. I suppose I’d prefer the latter.

    However, I think Montage misses the point of why NPR, NEA, and PBS especially rankle conservatives.

    Those agencies don’t just deliver a neutral service which some people like and others don’t need. NPR, NEA and PBS also fold in near-constant bias favoring liberals and the Democratic Party while dissing those of us on the other side.

    We would hate Meals on Wheels too if each van included a Pajama Boy to have “conversations” with seniors about white privilege or climate change then hand out political literature.

  30. Lizzy Says:

    I think Mulvaney was also referring to a lot of “scope creep” projects when he said they couldn’t justify asking an average American to foot the bill. We all have seen examples of this – the HHS study on why lesbians are fat, the GAO (IIRC) producing a Star Trek-themed video for some offsite retreat, etc. Add to that the redundancy, such as Obama having all federal agencies working on climate change when it has nothing to do with their core mission.

    I like the idea that we ask, “Why should taxpayers fund this?” instead of “What are the bureaucrats willing to take a funding cut on?”

  31. DNW Says:

    Montage Says:
    March 16th, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    I find Mulvaney’s views to be rather absurd because he doesn’t seem to understand the basic way in which representative government works. …”

    The same could be said with regard to you – and most certainly with regard to all progressives – concerning the concept of a constitutional polity.

    Of course most progressives, and sensitive conservatives as well, view politics as a simple delivery system aimed at their feed trough, with an underlying Rawlsian – commitment to a shared fate – predicate. The rest is just jockeying for the tit.

  32. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    I look on it as Trump’s opening bid in a series of negotiations.

    I’ve begun to look at all of Trump’s statements that way.

    We are used to expecting politicians to say what they mean and mean what they say (even while acknowledging that few, if any, politicians actually do that). We know that politicians, especially legislators, do a lot of horse-trading. So what we’re seeing from Trump, in his negotiating tactics, is a new kind of horse-trading (which therefore catches us by surprise); but he has not invented horse-trading.

    I, too, am in favor of the cutting — and of asking “why should your next-door neighbor (or your elderly parent) be required to pay for this?”

    Glenn Reynolds argued years ago that we ought to implement a 5% across-the-board budget cut — with no exceptions for any reason whatsoever. (It’s fair if everyone gets it, right?) Any department that claims it simply cannot survive with only 95% of last year’s funds can, quite, simply, be abolished. (Prof. Reynolds also made the point that a 5% budget cut is modest indeed, compared to what many American families have had to endure in recent years.)

    Any department that cannot use a scalpel to cut 5% from its budget, frankly, deserves to have an outsider come in with an ax…

  33. amr Says:

    FNC pundits have issued on air some numbers that show the cuts look to be less than the growth of agencies over the past 8 years. I have spent several hours trying to find these percentage comparisons, but have yet to find them. The WaPo gives us the decreases by President Trump but NO info on what went over the past 8 years. We DO know that overall Obama increased the deficit by almost 10 TRILLION dollars. I hate this crap where the media won’t give we citizens and taxpayers the information that will allow us to actually judge what is being done by President Trump compared to the past administration. Whether they realize it or not, without past agency info, the 10 Trillion increase in the debt gives President Trump a leg up on this issue, IMO.

  34. Montage Says:

    This budget is simply a proposal. It won’t pass the Senate and House because most congressman want government spending programs in their districts to continue. More voters than not will make enough noise that these cuts will not happen.

    That said, if it is preferable [as some suggest here] that we should decided where every single dollar goes then I say I want less to go to the military. Yes, it’s the sacred cow, of course. But I have to be honest. There is a lot of waste in military spending. Such as in the last budget Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, inserted a $640 million National Security Cutter that the Coast Guard says it did not need. But wasteful spending in the military is always allowed. It shouldn’t be. If we want a balanced budget let’s get serious. Here’s an article on wasteful military spending.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/charlestiefer/2016/01/01/the-10-most-blatantly-wasteful-defense-items-in-the-recent-1-8-trillion-spending-bill/#64a4879168cd

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