Budget Math?

Donald Trump has a serious math problem. Despite promising to erase the federal debt in eight years during the campaign, the budget outline released by the White House this week does the following:

  • Increases the national debt by 3 TRILLION dollars over the next ten years.
  • Slashes funding for programs that millions of Americans rely on (student loans, food stamps, health care for children, agricultural subsidies). Most notably the budget proposal also cuts Medicaid by 600 billion dollars – another campaign promise broken.
  • Cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans by billions of dollars.

Aside from the human and environmental costs of domestic spending cuts and tax breaks for wealthy Americans, this budget is a failure for two well-documented reasons:

  1. The budget assumes that the economy will respond to the stimulus of tax cuts by growing dramatically, thereby increasing revenue through additional payroll taxes. No reputable economist believes that this kind of growth (from 1.9% to 3%) is remotely likely.
  2. The budget proposal further counts over 2 TRILLION dollars in revenue twice! Larry Summers, former treasury secretary, posted in his blog, “this is a mistake no serious business person would make. It appears to be the most egregious accounting error in a Presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.”

Trump’s inauguration attendance numbers were really not important because they don’t mean much other than as an historical anecdote. These budget numbers, on the other hand, are incredibly important to teachers whose classes will get larger, students whose parents can’t pay for college out of pocket, or Americans who suffer from mental health issues, addiction, or simply need a hand.

It’s easy to to dismiss the Trump budget because the math is so absurdly faulty and because the Congress ultimately will appropriate funds. Members of the House and Senate have a strong interest in keeping some of these programs in place. But this budget outline reveals the priorities of an administration dedicated to concentrating more wealth with fewer people. It betrays a willingness to fudge the numbers without understanding the human impact they represent.


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