by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Thomas Donlan devotes his latest Barron’s editorial commentary to Congress’ apparent disinterest in President Trump’s budget ideas.
When the president published his instructions to Congress regarding the federal budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, he stepped into the deep mud of the Washington swamp that he promised to drain. Unfortunately, there is no drain plug for him to pull.
While the Republicans in Congress argued among themselves about the health-insurance bill last week, the president’s so-called budget blueprint languished in obscurity and indifference. Republicans and Democrats declared the proposal “dead on arrival,” the same label that congressmen have pasted on almost every presidential budget since the Carter administration.
Interest groups, lawmakers, and governors in both parties automatically professed themselves shocked by the deep cuts in key programs contained in what some movie buffs called a “Hannibal Lecter budget.” But the reference to cannibalism was misplaced. The Trump administration’s new budget blueprint offers no reduction in federal spending. It reallocates $54 billion from nondefense categories to defense categories, 10% up for defense, and 10% down for nondefense. The amount to be moved around is about 5% of total discretionary spending and 1.4% of total spending.
In most of the cuts, there are big percentages that create small dollar reductions. Proposed changes include:
The Environmental Protection Agency (a 31% proposed cut of $2.6 billion), the State Department (a 28% proposed cut of $11 billion), the Labor Department (a 21% cut of $2.5 billion), the Agriculture Department (a 21% cut of $4.7 billion), and the Army Corps of Engineers (a 16% cut of $1 billion).
There are also 19 agencies that the Trump blueprint listed for extinction, including the Legal Services Corp., the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The budget blueprint says the spending for all of them is less than $3 billion.
Those agencies have been on hit lists many times since 1965, and they have always proved to have more friends than enemies. The existence of any department, agency, bureau, or program in the federal government indicates that it has friends in high places, such as Capitol Hill. That doesn’t change just because of a presidential election.