Trump’s unserious budget


President Donald Trump’s new budget proposal is nothing but red meat for his Republican base.

The $4.8T spending plan is chock full of buzz words aimed at soothing the worries of budget hawks including “eliminating duplicative programs” and “eliminating programs with no proper federal role.” It also contains lofty assurances of changes to food stamps, massive cuts to the EPA, and block grants within the Education Department. The missive vows a balanced budget in only 15 years while promoting increased funding for the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security. Let’s also not forget the wall and rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure. Oh, and Mars.

Trump’s administration admitted the proposal is essentially for votes in 2020 due to criticism over his failure to even attempt to rein in Washington’s spending addiction.

“We’re trying to make the case that the president cares about spending and has cared about spending,” a senior administration official told The Washington Times the day before the budget became public. “He’s been doing this since his very first budget. This is now the fourth budget. Many of these [spending] reforms have been in each and every one of them. We do need Congress. Congress has not been there.”

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Similar comments were made by Acting OMB Director Russ Vought on Monday.

“[Congress has] certainly ignored this President’s savings proposals for the first three years,” Vought told reporters while noting it would be unfortunate if Congress ignored the budget request. “But this budget continues to be a statement from this President and his administration that we stand with families and businesses across the country who have to balance their budgets. Washington, D.C., does not stand with them, and for too long has operated under a different principle of recklessly spending other people’s money. That has to change, and hopefully, this budget leads to it.”

It’s nice rhetoric and certainly, Congress deserves an enormous amount of blame for its lack of budget sanity.

Yet, it would be unwise to let Trump skate. He is, after all, the same president who vowed in 2018 to never sign another omnibus spending measure only to sign an even larger bill last December. Trump’s major focus in the 2019 pact was crowing about tax cuts, essentially doing his best Jerry Jones who famously asked an irked Cowboys fan in 2001, “Did you like those three Super Bowls? Did you enjoy those? I hope you did. I hope you did very much.” The tax cuts are nice, but so are legitimate spending cuts which aren’t virtue signaling for votes.

Trump’s budget won’t go anywhere in Congress. They have already set spending limits for Fiscal Year 2021, despite the sequestration order from the White House. Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi said to colleagues on Monday he’s not planning a hearing on the budget because “Nobody has listened to the president in the 23 years that I’ve been here. Congress doesn’t pay attention to the president’s budget exercise.”

The reason for ignoring any president’s budget request is simple: Congress has the power of the purse so any appropriation suggestion by the president has about as much weight as a single feather. There can be negotiations between the legislative and the executive, but it seems both branches are perfectly fine with either a continuing resolution or a budget agreement that spends more money.

Some changes are possible if Congress alters its horrendous budget process. The House and Senate are perfectly willing to put off as much work as possible before ramming through some sort of humongous spending bill.

Oklahoma U.S. Senator James Lankford has more than a few suggestions on solving the budgetary process including restructuring some committees and making budget resolutions a binding law, so debates happen sooner.

“At the end of the day, Congress must make the difficult choices of deciding where our priorities lie and our ability to fund them,” the Republican wrote last year in his Federal Fumbles Volume 5 paper highlighting insane government spending. “There are no quick answers, but these solutions are great steps in the right direction. It is not too late to make the tough but responsible choice between acknowledging the tradeoffs we face and choosing first to fund our needs instead of our wants.”

These aren’t bad suggestions, but no one should hold their breath in hopes of Congress suddenly becoming sensible. They must enjoy the late-night votes and emergency declarations on cable news despite their proclamations of otherwise. Perhaps it’s because they know any budget vote earlier in the year increases the albeit remote possibility of a possible presidential veto due to fiscal insanity and the potential of legitimate cuts to government.

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