The first thing to know about President Donald Trump’s proposed budget is that the math simply does not add up. According to Harvard economist Larry Summers, the increases to defense spending and immigration enforcement that the president has proudly touted in speeches, comments, and tweets cannot be offset by the $2 trillion revenue growth generated by Trump’s tax cuts, because that $2 trillion is already supposed to pay for the tax cuts themselves. And that’s ignoring that the growth is based on suspect economic analysis. However, the unfortunate truth is that this brazen math error is just the most glaring flaw in Trump’s proposed budget—but far from the only one.
After a campaign that saw middle and working-class America boil over with discontent and racial anxiety, Trump seeks to impose rigid austerity with deep cuts to social services. From the National Endowment for the Arts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the common targets of conservative lawmakers have certainly seen deep cuts. But those cuts extend even to issues that Trump campaigned on, like the $400 million cut to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that will harm opioid addicts and the cut to the Department of Transportation that could erode our nation’s infrastructure. Keeping track of all of these draconian cuts in a budget proposal that likely won’t be passed can be maddening, but doing so helps us to understand both the administration’s goals and the value of the government programs that are on the chopping block.
Thankfully, the wonks of New America have already started putting the budget in perspective.
A good place to start is this quick list of Trump’s ten cruelest budget cuts by Rachel Black, co-director of the Family-Centered Social Policy program. To get a full survey of the education destruction Trump and Education Secretary Betsy Devos plan to dole out, check in with Clare McCann and Michael Prebil on higher education and Abigail Swisher, Lisa Guernsey, Abbie Lieberman, Melissa Tooley, Elena Silva, and Roxanne Garza on PreK-12. Brent Parton, deputy director of the Center on Education and Skills, dissected the impact of the budget on the needs of our workforce. The administration is also looking to make deep cuts to SNAP, or food stamps—a program that Justin King, policy director for Family-Centered Social Policy, and Aleta Sprague, fellow, defended in February.
The federal government is large and complicated, so it’s easy to stare at the machinery and assume that cutting waste is simple. But, in reality, each cut to the public sector means someone in the private sector is taking a loss—whether that’s a schoolteacher, a hungry child, or a small business owner. This doesn’t mean that budget cuts are never justified or necessary, but austerity can only go but so far. Paired with regressive tax cuts and a disjointed healthcare reform bill, this budget has devastating implications for the vast majority of Americans. With Congress still too paralyzed with dysfunction to craft a long-term, bipartisan budget, these battles will likely continue to take place. And it’s safe to say that the less Trump’s proposals influence our path forward, the better.