With months left before presidential elections, President Donald Trump is due to unveil a budget roadmap on Monday that abandons key deficit-cutting promises based on lofty and unlikely economic growth assumptions.
The final spending plan of Trump’s first term in office faces near-certain defeat in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives but offers a window on the administration’s priorities.
The budget makes cuts to social programs, environmental protection and foreign assistances, to fund defense spending and extend tax cuts for wealthy individuals and companies, according to officials and multiple US media reports.
The proposal again abandons the stated goal of closing the budget deficit in 10 years, instead of pushing the target date to 2035, according to media citing White House documents.
However, even that extended timeline assumes the US economy will grow by 3.0 percent a year, which would support higher tax revenues, something not achieved consistently in over a decade, and unheard of for an economy after 11 consecutive years of growth.
Despite pledging to pursue the Republican’s long-held war on deficits, the Trump administration has shown little interest in tackling the issue with the gap expected to hit $1 trillion this year amid growing government debt — double the estimate in his first budget plan.
The $4.8 trillion proposals this year calls for $2 trillion in cuts to non-defence programs, including safety net programs such as food stamps, and savings from the Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Cutting critical lifelines
Russell Vought, Trump’s acting budget director, said Monday the proposal will include over $740 billion for defence spending, a 20 percent increase.
And the massive $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, mostly benefitting the wealthiest, will be extended beyond 2025.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lambasted the proposal.
“The budget is a statement of values and once again the president is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security and wellbeing of hardworking American families,” she said in a statement.
“Year after year, President Trump’s budgets have sought to inflict devastating cuts to critical lifelines that millions of Americans rely on.”
But Vought defended the plan and called on Democrats to approve the required spending cuts.
“We believe we can make a big dent (in deficits) and get back into the realm of fiscal responsibility,” he said on CNBC.
But “it’s necessary to have restraint on non-defence spending,” including a 21 percent reduction for foreign aid.
He called the plan “a post-policy budget” which assumes the administration’s policy priorities will be enacted by Congress.
He also defended the 3.0 percent growth targets saying the goal is “entirely possible to be able to hit in the next 10 years.”
Trump also is expected to request $2 billion in homeland security spending for the US-Mexico border wall, boost spending for NASA by 12 percent while slashing the Environmental Protection Agency by 26 percent.