Commentary, Trump Administration

Donald Trump’s budget a study in cruelty

President Donald Trump (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Ever miss “compassionate conservatism?”

The label, often used to describe George W. Bush before he was president and before any of his actual policies went into effect, has been out of fashion for some time. Nowadays, it seems, they hardly even fake it.

Indeed, you’re not likely to find much compassionate conservatism in Trump’s budget, which he aimed at the American people Monday. Typical politicians unveil or announce their budgets. Donald Trump “aims” his budgets, which is to say they are not benevolent things.

They are intended to gouge government programs championed by progressives and loathed by conservatives.

As reported by multiple outlets Monday, the federal budget unloaded by Trump rips spending on Medicaid, student loan assistance, public education, environmental regulations, affordable housing initiatives and food stamps.

“We’re doing a lot of things that are good including waste and fraud. Tremendous waste and tremendous fraud,” Trump reportedly told the nation’s governors Monday, which has the unique quality of being nearly indecipherable Trump-braggadocio and a keenly accurate jeer of the Trump White House at the same time.

It’s often said that it’s better to pay attention to what Trump does and not what Trump says. That goes for virtually any political leader, but especially so for Trump. Because a budget is an explicit statement of his intentions, and Trump’s intentions are often buried beneath a topsoil of lies.

Case in point, Medicare, as many observers pointed out Monday:

Beyond the Trump administration’s fabrications, what does this budget say? It says that Donald Trump does not believe in any view of a compassionate United States.

Keep reading for a brief overview of the Trump spending plan from The N.Y. Times:

The White House budget is largely a messaging document that reflects the administration’s spending priorities and has little chance of being enacted in full by Congress. While Monday’s proposal is similar to the president’s previous requests, it is a stark contrast with the leading Democratic rivals for the White House, who have proposed large tax increases on the rich and expansions of government efforts to provide health care, education, affordable housing and aid for the poor.

For instance, at a time when many Democratic candidates are proposing sweeping efforts to forgive student loan debt and make some or all public colleges tuition-free, Mr. Trump’s budget again recommends eliminating subsidized federal student loans and ending the public service loan program, an incentive for teachers, police officers, government workers and other public servants that cancels their remaining federal student loans after a decade of payments. Those proposals were in last year’s budget; Congress failed to adopt them.

The budget also calls for the creation of a single income-driven loan repayment program, to replace what has become a confusing jumble of different payment plans. Under the administration’s plan, borrowers would pay 12.5 percent of their discretionary income toward their loans, instead of the 10 percent many currently pay.

Mr. Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget deviates from his previous proposals in that it does not contain an explicit plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

In previous years, Mr. Trump’s budget has proposed repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a system that would provide block grants of funding to states with far fewer rules about how the money should be spent. The new budget backs away from that approach. It leaves the Affordable Care Act’s funding in place but asks Congress to develop policies that would “advance the president’s health reform vision,” with a corresponding price tag, which it says would save $844 billion over the decade.

The budget’s approach to health care is particularly striking given its actions in court. It has joined a lawsuit brought by a group of Republican states that would seek to invalidate all of Obamacare. The Supreme Court is deciding whether it will take up that case or allow the lower courts to continue reviewing it. The president has repeatedly promised to release a health care plan that could be deployed if he wins in court, but he has yet to release one.

The budget still makes major changes to health care programs, including several that would tend to lower federal spending in Medicaid, by reducing the share of medical bills the federal government will pay for the Obamacare expansion population and imposing new requirements on beneficiaries who wish to enroll. Altogether, it proposes combined cuts to spending in Medicaid and Affordable Care Act subsidies that come to a trillion dollars, cuts that would mean substantial program changes.

Democratic candidates, in contrast, have offered detailed plans, which typically cost trillions of dollars raised via new taxes on corporations and the rich, to expand health care coverage and reduce costs for American patients.

The budget maintains the administration’s tradition of highly optimistic economic growth forecasts, which have not born out the past two years. Even then, it would leave the federal budget deficit only slightly smaller at the end of a possible second term for Mr. Trump, in 2024, than it was the year before he took office. It would not balance the budget until 2035 and add a projected $7 trillion to the national debt by the end of this decade, breaking Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to pay off the entire debt while in office.

It also avoids some hot-button issues that Democrats could seek to turn against Mr. Trump in November — notably, by not reducing Social Security or Medicare benefits. Most of the administration’s initiatives to save money on Medicare are cost-reduction proposals first offered under President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Instead, the budget seeks to claim victories on core issues of Mr. Trump’s appeal to voters, including growing the economy and cracking down on immigration. That focus was underscored in the first lines of the budget’s introduction, written by Mr. Trump, which looked backward.

“Over the past three years, my administration has worked tirelessly to restore America’s economic strength,” he wrote. “We have ended the war on American workers and stopped the assault on American industry, launching an economic boom the likes of which we have never seen before.”

The administration reserved some of its deepest cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency, which would face a 26 percent reduction in funding and the elimination of 50 programs Mr. Trump deemed “wasteful” or duplicative. The budget would shrink the agency to funding levels it last saw during the 1990s and focus it on “core functions” like addressing lead exposure in water and revitalizing former toxic sites, while excluding efforts like beach cleanup. It does not mention climate change.

Congress has typically ignored the administration’s proposals for cuts to the agency.

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