By Grant Smith, National News Writer
On March 16, 2017, President Trump officially sent his first budget proposal to Congress. Within the 53 pages of the document were plans to cut funding for the Department of State by 29 percent, the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, and the Department of Agriculture by 21 percent.
This would be the first time the government has executed cuts of this magnitude since the drawdown following World War II, according to numerous economists and budget analysts. When it comes to prioritizing the military as promised, Trump has proposed a 10 percent, or $52 billion, increase in funding for the Department of Defense.
The increase would exceed legal budget caps installed during the 2011 debt ceiling battle, according to the New York Times. Additionally, Homeland Security would see a $2.8 billion increase in funding to use toward fulfilling certain Trump campaign promises such as a wall on the Mexican border and the hiring of 5,000 new border patrol agents.
Offsetting these increases are deep cuts to domestic programs and foreign assistance. Along with the aforementioned cuts to government agencies comes cuts to the National Institute of Health that carries out medical research, the elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that has received bipartisan support, and the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Perhaps the most controversial measure of the proposed budget has been the elimination of the community block grant program that funds programs such as Meals on Wheels for the elderly and supports local law enforcement agencies, programs with support in both parties.
President Trump was elected in November on a promise to fight against government forces he deemed to be bloated and inefficient, this budget certainly fulfills that promise. The issue now becomes whether or not lawmakers will agree with his rearrangement of governmental priorities.
On this front, Trump seems to be prepping for a battle from all sides. Included in the cuts are pet projects of members of his own party, such as the elimination of funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a personal favorite of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president’s skinny budget are draconian, careless, and counterproductive,” said Republican House member Harold Rogers of Kentucky.
The possible fissures of the Republican Party over the president’s budget is not restricted to differences between the legislative and executive branches as Mr. Trump’s own cabinet has expressed concerns with his deep budgetary cuts. The head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, asked President Trump for at least $7 billion in funding during negotiations only to be supplied with an allocated budget of $5.7 billion according to the Washington Post.
There have been further concerns about the effectiveness of these cuts in actually reducing the federal deficit, a feat President Trump promised he could achieve easily within eight years. These concerns have arisen from the premise that Trump has left the popular programs of Medicare and Social Security untouched even though they account for 40 percent of governmental spending. Rising payments in these programs due to an aging population will easily swallow any revenue increases caused by the president’s spending cuts according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
However, in this stage Trump’s proposal is simply that, a proposal. It will be up to Congress to review and edit the budget by the October deadline. “Historically, presidential budgets do not fare well with Congress,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 21st print edition.
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