Budget Reveals Priorities

Donald Trump’s budget blueprint reveals what he values. While the President of the United States does not actually set the budget, he has typically worked closely with Congress to determine what can be passed. In fact, there are two major factors that will determine the actual impact of the priorities established in the 62 page document released this week:

  1. Congress is the branch of the U.S. government that formally appropriates the funds that make the government work. A more detailed budget, authored by Congressional Republicans, will likely come into focus in late April or May. Members of both parties in Congress are fairly protective of this responsibility and are quick to remind the executive branch that appropriations are the responsibility of the legislative branch.
  2. Trump’s budget blueprint calls for broad cuts in many departments – cuts that cabinet secretaries and budget managers will have to fully implement. Presumably budget directors will have some discretion as they determine which programs to trim or abolish.

President Trump, however, has established some broad direction for areas that he feels should be cut – many of which are areas that directly impact significant numbers of  voters who helped elect him last November. Michael Grunwald, in a piece recently published in Politico sees the Trump budget blueprint as something very different than other other budgets that have included cuts. He contends that”the main thrust of Trump’s budget is an ideological assault on government itself, not a surgical strike on government excesses.” In some ways, this budget document is like the raft of executive orders Trump signed in the weeks after he became president. It represents a loud and brash way to open the deal-making and signals that he intends to honor promises he made when he was campaigning for office. The symbolic nature of this budget document is possibly more significant than the actual policy value it carries.

Given how excited both Republicans and Democrats are about cuts in Meals on Wheels, loan programs for rural infrastructure, international exchange programs, and programs to combat homelessness, this “ideological assault” will generate significant discussion throughout the budget process. Nonetheless, we know where Donald Trump stands: He wants to spend billions of dollars on a wall (that Mexico won’t pay for and that won’t do any good) while at the same time cutting programs that have demonstrably helped millions of Americans.