Trump budget: keeping his promises?

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They say it’s DOA – that all Presidents’ budgets are dead on arrival. We might want to think this is just the opening gambit from the central player in The Art of the Deal,  in this era of obtuse and erratic Presidential actions, there is no certainty of outcome. One’s head spins.

The $1.1 trillion document speaks volumes of the President’s values and lays out the parameters of a bloody budget battle.  His budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, used Trump’s campaign promises as the blueprint and says cutting  taxes is “the most compassionate thing we can do.”

The only increase is $54 billion more for the military and homeland security. With this kind of boost, why would our allies take seriously Trump’s demand that they come up with their “fair share” of defense costs? Isn’t the negotiator-in-chief undercutting his own bargaining position?

And how would the United States pay for this increase? Bodies everywhere. 16 percent cut from human services. 14 percent from education. A 31 percent cut in environmental protection, including reducing Great Lakes cleanup from $300 million to $10 million. We’re going back to the bad old days when the Cuyahoga River (flowing into Lake Erie) caught on fire due to the toxins in the water. Maybe deregulating health and safety will mean fewer people living long enough to need government benefits!  Is that a component of the GOP’s so-called “dynamic scoring?”

A 30 percent cut in the State Department will cripple “soft”diplomacy. Even Defense Secretary James Mattis indicated that it’s unwise to rely solely on the military to advance our national interest.  An 18 percent cut in the National Institutes for Health will slow medical research. I guess deadly viruses will be blocked from our shores by an immigrant ban.

The  National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts would be eviscerated. (It’s tempting to believe reports that the NEA budget is  less than the cost to provide security for the First Lady and her son living away in New York, but the numbers don’t compute.) Among the verifiable outrages, however, President Donald Trump would cut Community Development Block Grants heavily affecting the Meals on Wheels Program as well as heating assistance to the poor elderly. Really?

One quarter of the Massachusetts budget relies on federal funds. The Trump budget could cut jobs drastically here, especially in health care. This state gets more National Health Institute funding per capita than any other state. Overall, Senator Edward Markey predicts a loss of $1 billion, though it’s not clear that his assessment factors in potential increases in defense spending. Either way, this isn’t going to be pretty.

As grotesque as the budget cuts are, they may not be as destabilizing as the President’s erratic, ignorant tweet-driven behavior.   I keep hoping to wake up from this bad dream. More importantly, I keep hoping that members of Congress, especially the Republicans, will wake up from whatever they’re dreaming about and put a halt to the insanity. Their party won the election and can reasonably be expected to trim the sails on Democrats’ priorities for spending, but even a fractious GOP can set a new course philosophically without capsizing the ship of state.

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