While some of the plans proposed in President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 seem unlikely to be approved by the Congress, the document sets out a unique road map of how the Trump Administration views a variety of functions within the federal government, and what items the White House would like to get rid of – big and small.
Here are eight things you might have missed in the fine print of the 2018 Trump budget:
1. An effort to close down excess military bases. The Trump budget includes a provision to start a round of military base closures in 2021, an idea that is sure to draw strong opposition, despite clear evidence that the military has too much overhead and infrastructure. Lawmakers have routinely rejected such efforts in recent years, with some still simmering about the impact of past base closure rounds – especially the last one in 2005. “The Department of Defense (DOD) has approximately 20 percent excess infrastructure capacity across all Military Departments,” the budget argues. While it may make sense to some, the odds are probably stacked against this provision in the Congress.
2. End funding for public broadcasting. For a number of years, Republicans have pushed to reduce the amount of money that the feds put into public broadcasting, and President Trump’s plan would do away with almost all the $484 million being spent this year on such activities, leaving $30 million to wind down operations. The White House argues that PBS and NPR “could make up the shortfall by increasing revenues from corporate sponsors, foundations, and members.” As with the effort to close down military bases, the odds would seem to be against this – but Congress will have the final say.
3. When is a Medicaid cut not a Medicaid cut? I have always tried to be very careful about using the term “cut” – because too often, there are not budget cuts, but just reductions in the level of increase in a program. Let’s look at Medicaid in the President’s 2018 budget as an example:
If you look at this graphic, you will see how the President’s budget would save $610 billion by reforming Medicaid. The second set of figures is the “baseline” for Medicaid – where spending would go without any changes. That says $408 billion would be spent on Medicaid in 2018, ending up at $688 billion in 2027. The bottom graphic is the Trump proposal, which has Medicaid at $404 billion in 2018 and $524 billion in 2027. “There’s not cuts at all,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). “It’s a matter of slowing the growth rate.” Yes, the Trump plan would spend less money than current built-in automatic growth rate, but the overall amount still goes up over the ten year budget.
4. But those are real cuts at CDC and NIH. One of the areas with some of the strongest bipartisan support is on medical research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. And so, when the numbers came in on Tuesday, there was a bipartisan negative reaction on cuts to NIH and CDC. NIH funding would be reduced by from $31.8 billion to $25.9 billion. CDC’s budget would go down $1.2 billion, a 17 percent cut. It’s a pretty good bet that lawmakers will not approve those cuts suggested by the President. The former head of the CDC expressed his displeasure:
5. Still few details on funding infrastructure plan. For months, the President and his top aides have talked about a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to build new roads and bridges in the United States. There was a fact sheet released by the White House, setting out some ideas, like rolling back regulations on how infrastructure projects are developed, but no new pot of money to fund $200 billion in seed money. “Providing more federal funding, on its own, is not the solution to our infrastructure challenges,” the White House noted. One of the few ideas offered was to allow states to levy tolls on interstate highways, and allow private companies to run rest areas. The Trump plan reduces spending from the highway trust fund by $95 billion over ten years.
6. Farm country not pleased with Trump budget details. If you had an infrared heat detector just off the Senate floor today, you might have seen the steam coming from the ears of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Speaking with reporters, Roberts – well known for his dry wit – suggested the White House needs to make its budget writers count to 60 multiple times every day – to remind them that 60 votes would be needed for major farm policy spending changes. The Trump plan would save $38 billion over 10 years by limiting crop insurance subsidies and eligibility, streamlining conservation programs and more. Outside groups quickly made their voices heard on the proposed changes as well. It is hard to imagine these plans becoming law.
7. Legal Services Corporation again on the chopping block. One of the first debates that I distinctly remember from my first summer on Capitol Hill in 1980 was an effort to cut money from the non-profit Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to low income Americans. The LSC budget is $384 million for this year, and under the Trump plan, would be cut down to around $30 million, to allow for operations to be terminated. Again, this is another budget cut that seems unlikely to be approved, as GOP lawmakers, like Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), are already saying they oppose such a plan.
8. Trump wants to sell D.C. drinking water authority. Created by Congress in 1859, the Washington Aqueduct brings drinking water to Washington, D.C., and parts of the Virginia suburbs. While the drinking facilities operate under the auspices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water customers pay for all the operation and maintenance costs, as well as any improvements. Why does the White House want to sell this? “Ownership of local water supply is best carried out by State or local government or the private sector where there are appropriate market and regulatory incentives,” the budget documents state. It’s not clear how the feds estimated that selling the authority would bring in $119 million for Uncle Sam.
9. Trump wants to cut a lot – but not at the White House. As I sifted through the numbers in the budget for the White House, it struck me that funding levels were pretty much all constant for the office of the President – and my colleague Patricia Murphy dug through those details and found the same thing.
If you want to read more of the details about the Trump 2018 budget, you can find those on the White House website.