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Trump's budget is heartless and whackadoodle

Catherine Rampell on

Fair enough: President Trump's heartless and whackadoodle budget, released on Monday, will never actually become law. Even when his party had unified control of government, he couldn't get Capitol Hill to take major portions of his budget terribly seriously.

Still, a president's budget plan is a statement of his priorities. And based on this latest statement, Trump's priorities continue to be redistributing wealth ever upward, from poor to rich, and selling the public more fantasies and lies.

Federal deficits have widened immensely under Trump's leadership. This is striking not only because he promised fiscal responsibility -- at one time even pledging to eliminate the national debt within eight years -- but also because it's a historical anomaly. Deficits usually narrow when the economy is good and we're not engaged in a major war.

Trump's own policies are to blame for this aberration. Specifically, the 2017 tax law, which gave two-thirds of its benefits to the top income quintile last year, added $1.9 trillion to deficits over the coming decade. A grand-bargain spending bill last year that increased funding for both defense and nondefense programs -- here the Democrats deserve a share of the blame -- also spilled plenty of red ink.

Trump's plan for addressing these issues? Extend the plutocratic tax cuts (currently slated to partially expire in 2025), which would add $1 trillion to deficits; double down on defense spending increases (and money for his border wall); and then balance the budget on the backs of the nation's most vulnerable.

The president's 2020 budget proposal would slash government spending pretty much across the board on entitlements and other nondefense spending. That includes programs such as food stamps, low-income housing assistance and Social Security disability insurance.

 

Among the biggest spending categories on the chopping block is health care, even though most Americans want government to do more to improve access to affordable care, not less.

Despite campaign promises to the contrary, Trump's plan would slash hundred of billions of dollars from Medicare over the next decade. His budget also endorses enactment of the final (and arguably worst) Affordable Care Act repeal bill that failed to make it out of the Senate in 2017, known as Cassidy-Graham. This would lead to sharp cuts to Medicaid and the subsidies for insurance purchased on the individual market exchanges.

The administration would also mandate that all states impose work requirements on Medicaid, a policy that has been disastrous in the first state to attempt it, Arkansas. Last year, it resulted in more than 18,000 people getting kicked off benefit rolls, with no evidence that it actually promoted work.

"Altogether, the budget would make poverty deeper and more widespread, increase the ranks of the uninsured, exacerbate inequality and racial disparities, and shrink opportunities for those trying to get ahead," said Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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