The Trump administration on Monday proposed a $4.4 trillion budget for 2019 and a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. In practical terms, neither of them will matter all that much — but both are already sparking further debate about our national priorities.
Trump’s budget, like his proposal last year, calls for sharp cuts to domestic spending, including Medicare and Medicaid, while asking for more money for the military, infrastructure, border security and opioid treatment programs.
But the budget is already being described as “dead on arrival” — and Congress is likely to pay it even less attention than it does most presidential budgets, which are typically regarded as little more than political vision statements. “A lot of presidents’ budgets are ignored,” Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, told the Associated Press. “But I would expect this one to be completely irrelevant and totally ignored.” Furman was echoing the conventional wisdom. “While all presidential budgets are largely political exercises, this one is widely anticipated to be the least relevant in decades,” The New York Times said on Friday.
That’s because of the spending deal passed by Congress, and signed by the president, last week. That deal authorizes spending billions more on programs Trump’s budget would slash. “Without more Republicans in Congress, we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military,” Trump tweeted on Friday.
A Budget Hole Trump Can’t Even Pretend to Fill
Still, the budget represents a landmark shift for what it doesn’t do: reach balance.
The proposal “discards longtime Republican orthodoxy about balancing the budget, instead embracing last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut and new spending on a major infrastructure initiative,” The New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes.
Last year’s White House budget, which used some highly questionable math, projected a surplus of $16 billion in 2027. This year’s budget envisions a $450 billion deficit that year, or 1.4 percent of projected GDP, and a $363 billion deficit, or 1.1 percent of GDP, in 2028. It projects accumulated deficits totaling $7.1 trillion from 2019 through 2028, more than double the 10-year deficit projected in last year’s budget — and that’s after significant cuts to non-defense spending that would trim more than $3 trillion from the deficit over a decade. The 10-year deficit would also be much larger were it not for some rosy assumptions about economic growth baked into the projections.
As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake sums it up: “Republicans have the power to balance the budget now, and they are not even trying — despite this having been a rallying cry for their party and the tea party movement for years. … Apparently $1 trillion in tax cuts and $500 billion in new spending in Congress's bipartisan deal last week have made it too difficult to even stretch the numbers in a document that is almost purely hypothetical.”