US President Donald J. Trump participates in a health care discussion in the White House in Washington, DC , USA, 10 March 2017.
SHAWN THEW/EPA

Trump wastes little time breaking his key promises in a cruel budget

When Donald Trump rode down a New York escalator and announced his presidential campaign two years ago in front of an audience featuring people paid to be there, the Republican made international headlines by arguing that Mexican immigrants are rapists.

But in the same speech, Trump was careful to break with GOP orthodoxy on some of the nation’s most popular social-insurance programs. He said, if elected, he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Trump added, “Have to do it.”

Those who actually believed his rhetoric fell for an unfortunate scam. Indeed, Trump has made many of his defenders look quite foolish with the unveiling of his first federal budget.
President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal includes sweeping cuts to social spending for low-income Americans, including entitlement programs that the president promised to protect as a candidate, while boosting defense spending.
To appreciate just how radical the proposed cuts are, Vox’s rundown paints a bleak picture. Trump’s budget was expected to be radical – his budget chief is Mick Mulvaney, a former right-wing congressman and Freedom Caucus leader – but this blueprint is more of a cruel joke than a proper budget. Among the cuts highlighted by Vox’s report:
* All $880 billion in Medicaid cuts included in the Republican health plan that has passed the House, plus $610 billion in additional cuts due to adopting an even stingier formula for increasing Medicaid funding year over year. This amounts to a total cut to Medicaid of over 47 percent.

* $191 billion in cuts from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, over 10 years. That’s about a 25 percent cut. The administration claims it will achieve this by adding new work requirements, but it would effectively require kicking many people off the program or dramatically cutting benefit amounts.

* $40.4 billion in cuts to the earned income tax credit and child tax credit over 10 years, programs that, along with SNAP, make up much of the US’s safety net for poor people. Trump would require parents receiving benefits to submit a Social Security number to weed out unauthorized immigrants — even those whose children are US citizens.

* $21.6 billion in cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or welfare, over 10 years. That’s a nearly 13 percent cut to the program, which has already been cut dramatically since the 1990s.
Trump’s budget, in other words, targets benefits for the poor and the sick, while cutting taxes for the wealthy, boosting an enormous Pentagon budget, and setting aside billions for a border wall.

The plan also intends to eliminate the deficit within 10 years by relying on math that doesn’t make any sense.

It even cuts Social Security, despite Trump’s promise, by cutting Social Security Disability Insurance by billions. Asked how to reconcile the president’s pre-election assurances with his in-writing budget plan, Mick Mulvaney argued to reporters yesterday that Trump’s promise came with fine print: Trump was talking about retirees’ benefits, not benefits for the disabled.

Before anyone panics, it’s important to realize that there’s approximately zero chance Congress will approve Trump’s budget plan. Lawmakers in both parties have already announced their opposition to the White House’s blueprint, and some have even begun mocking it.

And for some, that effectively ends the conversation. If Trump’s budget will be ignored by lawmakers, the argument goes, than it doesn’t much matter what it says.

I disagree. There’s an old cliché that a budget is a moral document, and the adage endures for a reason: it’s true. This blueprint is a vehicle for Trump and his team to show what kind of country they want to build. The president is obsessed with making America “great,” and this budget explains – in black-and-while detail – what exactly the White House means when it uses the adjective.

This is, in other words, Trump’s vision for the nation’s future – and it’s more than a little terrifying.

Putting aside legislative prospects, it matters that the president, just four months in office, is already breaking the core promises of his campaign. It matters that he’s deliberately targeting some of the nation’s most vulnerable. It matters that many of those who’d be hit hardest by Trump’s plan are many of the same people who voted for him.

It matters that the pseudo-populism of Trump’s inaugural address now reads like gallows humor.

The fact that the White House would even present such a document is evidence of depravity that deserves to be a national controversy.

Budget, Budgets, Donald Trump and White House

Trump wastes little time breaking his key promises in a cruel budget