Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Washington Chainsaw Massacre

The Trump regime plans to ask the GOP-controlled Congress for tens of billions in massive, draconian cuts to domestic programs across the board in order to pay for a huge Pentagon expansion and new border security measures as the White House releases its budget proposal today.

President Trump’s budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year would slash the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent and cut State Department spending by a similar amount in a brash upending of the government’s priorities, according to congressional staff members familiar with the plan.

The budget outline, to be unveiled on Thursday, is more of a broad political statement than a detailed plan for spending and taxation. But it represents Mr. Trump’s first real effort to translate his bold but vague campaign themes into the minutiae of governance. The president would funnel $54 billion in additional funding into defense programs, beef up immigration enforcement and significantly reduce the nondefense federal work force to further the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” in the words of Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

Yet for all its headline-grabbing bold strokes — and the White House claims that it will reset the process of Washington policy making — major elements of the plan have already been declared dead on arrival by the Republican leadership in Congress, and much of the fiscal fine print will be filled in by Capitol Hill lawmakers and their aides over the next month.

House appropriations subcommittees began reviewing the plan late Wednesday. Among the cuts: drastic reductions in the 60-year-old State Department Food for Peace Program, which sends food to poor countries hit by war or natural disasters, and the elimination of the Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes flights to rural airports.

The plan is a “skinny budget,” a pared-down first draft of the line-by-line appropriations request submitted by first-term administrations during their first few months. A broader budget will be released later in the spring that will include Mr. Trump’s proposals for taxation as well as the bulk of government spending — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs.

Mr. Trump’s version is likely to be even skinnier than usual, a result of the chaos, inexperience and staffing problems encountered by the Trump White House over the first two months.

Issues with coordination plagued Wednesday’s briefing sessions: Republican communications staff members, who usually coordinate their messaging, complained that they had been given no White House guidance on its details or how to sell the plan, which covers the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

In addition to the cuts at the E.P.A. and the State Department, Mr. Trump’s team is expected to propose a wide array of cuts to public education, to transportation programs like Amtrak and to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the complete elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts.

House and Senate Republicans have already said that they're not going to take the fall for this, as the budget proposal is already considered DOA on Capitol Hill.  Having said that, the Trump Regime's recent executive order to restructure the entire executive branch means the White House has broad latitude to make these huge cuts effective in all but name by simply shifting priorities of what to actually do with the money.

The biggest winners and losers:

Note that the Department of Agriculture would take a massive cut under Trump, as well as state clean-up programs for the EPA, arts and science programs, energy research, and national parks.  It's a brutal austerity budget that would hurt red states as well as blue, and I can't imagine there are a whole lot of Republicans in Congress from Midwest or Mountain West states that are going to want to cut the USDA by 29%.

This is a cute document, but as with Trumpcare, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are going to run screaming from this mess.  If Republicans have to take votes on these kinds of cuts, even Democrats will be able to find winning messages in 2018.

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