Trump proposes US$4 trillion budget


Tue, Feb 13, 2018 - Page 6

US President Donald Trump is proposing a US$4 trillion-plus budget for next year that projects a US$1 trillion or so federal deficit and — unlike the plan he released last year — never comes close to promising a balanced federal ledger even after 10 years.

And that is before last week’s US$300 billion budget pact is added this year and next, showering both the Pentagon and domestic agencies with big increases.

The spending spree, along with last year’s tax cuts, has the deficit moving sharply higher with Republicans in control of Washington.

The original plan was for Trump’s new budget to slash domestic agencies even further than last year’s proposal, but instead it will land in the US Congress three days after he signed a two-year spending agreement that wholly rewrites both last year’s budget and the one to be released yesterday.

The fiscal 2019 budget was originally designed to double down on last year’s proposals to slash foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency, home heating assistance and other nondefense programs funded by Congress each year.

“A lot of presidents’ budgets are ignored. But I would expect this one to be completely irrelevant and totally ignored,” said Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to former US president Barack Obama. “In fact, Congress passed a law [last] week that basically undid the budget before it was even submitted.”

In a preview of the 2019 budget, the White House on Sunday focused on Trump’s US$1.5 trillion plan for the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. He also will ask for a US$13 billion increase over two years for opioid prevention, treatment and long-term recovery. A request of US$23 billion for border security, including US$18 billion for a wall along the US-Mexico border and money for more detention beds for detained immigrants, is part of the budget, too.

Trump would again spare Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare as he promised during the 2016 campaign. And while his plan would reprise last year’s attempt to scuttle the “Obamacare” health law and sharply cut back the Medicaid program for the elderly, poor and disabled, Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill have signaled there is no interest in tackling hot-button health issues during an election year.

Instead, the new budget deal and last year’s tax cuts herald the return of trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Last year, Trump’s budget predicted a US$526 billion budget deficit for the 2019 fiscal year starting Oct. 1; instead, it is set to easily exceed US$1 trillion once the cost of the new spending pact and the tax cuts are added to Congressional Budget Office projections.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Sunday said that Trump’s new budget, if implemented, would tame the deficit over time.