President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget for 2018 rests on gutting programs for the poor, public health, science and the environment, civil society groups say.
The document released Monday, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” wants to cut $3.6 trillion in government spending over 10 years, balancing the budget by the end of the decade.
Trump’s biggest saving would come from cuts to the programs aimed for the poor, such as a more than $800 billion cut from the Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor many disabled Americans, and more than $192 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.
"President Trump’s 2018 budget ... reflects a cruel indifference to the millions of low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads," said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "Mr. Trump’s budget would harm thousands of the lowest income families by taking away their housing assistance – a move that would lead to higher levels of homelessness and housing poverty – in a transparent effort to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and billions of dollars in increased defense spending."
There is some new spending, as the cuts to domestic spending would be redirected to the U.S. military, law enforcement and supporting veterans. It proposed to allocate more than $2.6 billion for border security, including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico.
“We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs,” Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters. “We’re not going to measure our success by how much money we spend but by how many people we actually help.”
The plan also include $46.54 billion in cuts to federal funding for the agriculture sector over the next 10 years, but makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, which are the two largest drivers of the country’s debt.
The budget includes $200 billion for a plan in funding to encourage state and local governments to boost spending on roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure programs, and a $25 billion plan to give parents six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
Trump’s plan to balance the federal budget in a decade relies on forecasts for economic growth of 3 percent a year by the end of his first term. Many many economists and the Federal Reserve regard it as unlikely. The projection is also beyond Congressional Budget Office assumptions of 1.9 percent growth.
"While we appreciate the administration's focus on reducing the debt, when using more realistic assumptions, the president’s budget does not add up," Maya MacGuineas, President of the the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement.
As part of a plan to balance the budget, Trump also proposed to sell half of the nation's emergency oil stockpile and open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and ramp up American energy output.
"This is the budget designed by the corporate lobbyists Trump has brought into his administration to short circuit environmental protections to pad the profits of millionaires and billionaires," said Ben Schreiber, Friends of the Earth’s senior political strategist. "Slashing the budgets of agencies designed to protect the environment and public health will consign millions of Americans to unbreathable air and contaminated drinking water."
Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, added, “President Trump’s proposed budget takes a wrecking ball to agencies that protect our health, safety and environment."
The plan will face challenges on Capitol Hill as many Democrat and Republican representatives have labeled it as the “most conservative budget” in decades.
“Based on what we know about this budget, the good news — the only good news — is that it was likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate, just as the last budget was,” said New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.