Trump budget seeks deep domestic spending cuts, welfare reform

March 18, 2019

President Donald Trump’s budget for 2020 involves a lot of slashing — and many people may soon be out of a job.

The proposed budget cuts would hit domestic programs like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and put National Public Radio (NPR) and numerous entitlement programs to the grindstone. The plan also targets student loan programs and a project originally intended to help rural communities hit by economic setbacks.

On the other side of the coin, the budget looks to make big investments in the border wall and the Pentagon.

Reshuffling of priorities

The president hopes to achieve cuts of almost $3 trillion over the next 10 years, mostly by targeting domestic programs at the State, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Interior departments. Trump’s budget reductions take additional aim at some familiar targets to fiscal conservatives including the EPA, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), long considered superfluous by Republicans.

The EPA would experience the most substantial cut of any of the agencies on the president’s short list, sustaining a budget reduction of 31 percent under the plan. The budget also looks to slash billions from programs like Medicare, food stamps and public housing initiatives and includes provisions that would impose stringent work requirements on those receiving those federally-subsidized benefits.

The military would be a major beneficiary of the proposed budget, receiving a defense budget of $750 billion, as would soldiers, who could be in line for largest pay raise seen in a decade. The president seeks appropriations for a new branch of the military to be known as the Space Force, over $8 billion for the southern border wall and a big $200 billion boost to infrastructure spending.

The Department of Homeland Security and Veterans’ Affairs are also slated for spending increases under Trump’s proposal.

The budget plan assumes continued and robust economic growth spurred by recent changes to the tax code. Critics have suggested that the projections are far too optimistic, and that despite ambitious cuts, the plan is likely to raise the deficit by over a trillion dollars next year.

Dems slam proposed cuts

Trump’s budget was immediately condemned by Democrats, who said it would callously target vulnerable families who depend on government support. While Trump’s cuts have surely angered the left, aspects of the budget may not be well-received even by some supporters of the president.

Among these are possible cuts to the Economic Development Association (EDA), a long-standing program that invests in rural communities to help them adjust to economic disasters such as factory closures and resulting unemployment. The budget plan describes the project, created by the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, as unnecessary and redundant since it also provides assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters, but supporters say it has helped rescue jobs from economic recessions.

Like other items targeted in the budget, the EDA has been a target of Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan, and the Cato Institute describes the EDA and its budget of roughly $274 million as a waste. But supporters are quick to argue that it has helped them save manufacturing jobs in areas devastated by major economic upheavals.

Spending cuts in the Trump budget reflect the divided nature of the president’s conservatism, which often strays from party dogma on economics when it comes to tariffs while remaining fiscally very conservative when it comes to welfare spending.

It’s important to remember the budget proposal is just a proposal, and while it will surely win the approval of small government conservatives, it’s not set in stone. It will likely face stiff resistance from House Democrats who oppose its attempts to reduce environmental regulation and shrink the welfare state, and it may well prompt a government shutdown standoff.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.