President Trump recently released his first attempt at a national budget. Trump’s “skinny” budget is titled “America First: A Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” In his budget, Trump proposes budget cuts to almost every department except for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Defense Department. According to a Fortune report, Trump’s “skinny” budget is one of the “skinniest budgets in the past forty years.” A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on Fortune notes that, “President Jimmy Carter’s was 101 pages, President George H.W. Bush’s was 193 pages, President George W. Bush’s was 207 pages, President Bill Clinton’s was 145 pages, and President Barack Obama’s was 134 pages.”
The main reason Trump’s budget is so much smaller—only 54 pages— is because of what it focuses on. According to Fortune, Trump’s budget only looks at “discretionary programs for the year ahead. These discretionary programs account for only about a third of the overall budget. Trump’s administration did not explain the plans for the mandatory spending on programs like Social Security or Medicare.” The budget also does not go beyond 2018, and it gives no indication of what his tax cuts and infrastructure spending will be.
Although President Trump is receiving a lot of criticism, his focus on military spending is not uncommon among past Republican budget proposals. Over the years, certain issues have become part of the identity of each political party. Republicans tend to be more closely associated with national security than Democrats. On the other hand, Democrats seem to worry more about education, poverty, the environment, and healthcare. Patrick J. Egan, an Associate Professor of Politics and Public Policy at NYU, tells The Washington Post that this is known as “issue ownership.” He goes on to say that, “Since the 1970s, Republicans have consistently owned issues such as the military and domestic security while Democrats have maintained ownership over issues such as poverty, education and the environment.” Finally, Professor Egan states that President Trump’s budget is “basically issue ownership on steroids. Trump’s proposed spending increases on the military and domestic security are issues owned solidly by the Republican Party. The big exception is foreign affairs: Trump’s huge cut to the State Department is at odds with the fact that the GOP has owned this issue for much of recent history.”
Through this budget, Trump officially confirmed his stance on climate change and proved that the environment is not a priority for him.
The budget cuts range from one percent from NASA’s to thirty-one percent from the Environmental Protection Agency. Through this budget, Trump officially confirmed his stance on climate change and proved that the environment is not a priority for him. The total cut to the EPA budget would be about $2.6 billion. According to the proposed budget, the EPA would have to change its role to more of a supporting one. The budget states that the agency will now, “primarily support States and Tribes in their important role protecting air, land, and water in the 21st Century.” Coral Davenport of The New York Times reports, “The budget calls for the elimination of about 3,200 staff positions — over 20 percent of the department. It would also eliminate all funding for enactment of the Clean Power Plan, the regulations designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. It would also discontinue funding for climate change research and international climate change programs.”
Christine McEntee, the director of the American Geophysical Union, reacts to the cut in funding by telling NPR that, “[t]hey can cut the funding, but climate change is real and we’re going to have to deal with it. Slashing this kind of funding is not going to assist in building the resiliency to climate and the impacts of climate change that this country needs.” The Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney justified their decision by stating, “[w]e’re not spending money on this anymore. We consider that a waste of your money.”
Trump’s budget also negitively affects places where he received many votes in the presidential election. For example, in Michigan, a traditionally “blue” state, the budget cuts would completely eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Representative Dan Kildee (D), told The Detroit News that the plan was “short-sighted and reckless. In addition to deep cuts to medical research, job training, affordable housing programs and heating assistance for the poor, the President wants to eliminate all funding to protect the Great Lakes. With his budget, the president is essentially saying our way of life in Michigan doesn’t matter.”
The Department of Education was another one hit hard by Trump’s proposed budget. The total budget cut for the Education Department would be about $9.2 billion. According to NPR, there are three programs, within the Department of Education, that Trump wishes to completely eliminate. These three programs are the Supporting Effective Instruction program, which is “designated to better recruit, support and train educators, particularly for high-need schools.” Second, is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which “provides $732 million in need-based aid for college students.” Finally, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which “provide before and after-school enrichment, tutoring, and other services.” Out of these three funds, the elimination of the before and after school programs is what created the most public outcry. Mulvaney’s attempt at justifying the Trump administration’s decision only made matters worse. During an interview at the White House, Mulvaney stated,
[T]hey’re supposed to be educational programs, right? That’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home, get fed so that they do better at school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better at school.
If AmeriCorps is eliminated, it would be a disaster for public education, especially in cities.
Advocates for before and after school programs quickly responded. Jodi Grant, the Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance, told Time, “This proposal would devastate working families. It is painfully short-sighted and makes a mockery of the President’s promise to make our country safer and to support inner cities and rural communities alike.” According to Time, during the 2013-14 academic school year, the Department of Education found that, “student participation in Community Learning Centers led to improvements in achievement and behavior. Half of students improved their homework completion and in-class participation. More than a third of participants also improved their grades in math and English.” The Time report continues and notes that the American Psychological Association concluded that “hungry children are significantly more likely to receive special education services, to have repeated a grade in school, and to have received mental health counseling than at-risk-for-hunger or not-hungry children.” It continued to explain that “hungry children were more likely than their not-hungry peers to have behavioral problems, including fighting or not listening.”
Another program that is up for complete elimination, which plays a great role in both the educational field and the community at large, is the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This corporation is most well-known for its Americorps programs. The CNCS website reports that in North Carolina alone, it serves more than 1,300 locations and provides almost 6,200 volunteers. The report continues to state that,
[T]hese citizens tutor and mentor children, support veterans and military families, provide health services, restore the environment, respond to disasters, increase economic opportunity, and recruit and manage volunteers. This year, the CNCS will commit more than $26,130,000 to support North Carolina communities through national service and social innovation initiatives. Through a unique public-private partnership, this federal investment will leverage an additional $13,820,000 in other resources to strengthen community impact, build local support, and increase return on taxpayer dollars.
In response to the possible elimination of the program Samantha Warfield, an Americorps spokeswoman, told The Boston Globe that,
The more than 325,000 citizens serving through AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs are preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs, reducing crime and reviving cities, connecting returning veterans to jobs, fighting the opioid epidemic, supporting seniors to live independently and with dignity, making college more accessible and affordable, and helping Americans rebuild their lives following a disaster.
Michael Brown, the chief executive officer and co-founder of City Year which heavily relies on Americorps volunteers and serves more than 200,000 students in 28 cities nationwide, told The Boston Globe, “If AmeriCorps is eliminated, it would be a disaster for public education, especially in cities. The young people volunteering are giving their all. They are up at the crack of dawn. To say no to all that citizen energy would be a travesty.”
Trump’s budget also negatively affects those who he claimed would be a priority for him—coal workers.
Unlike the majority of federal programs, the DHS would receive a budget increase under President Trump’s proposed budget. The great majority of the additional funding would go to a single project—Trump’s infamous wall. A Newsday breakdown demonstrates that of the $2.8 billion Trump requested for the DHS, $2.6 billion would go to the initial building of the wall. Many believe that the wall will cost substantially more than this initial amount. According to The New York Times, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, “expects the wall to cost between $12 to $15 billion.” The report also notes that this estimate does not include all of the legal costs that the building of this wall would incur. Trump has yet to release or tweet a statement on how he plans on making Mexico reimburse the United States for the building of this wall.
Trump has not only received great criticism from Democrats, but also from fellow Republicans. For example, The Hill reports that Mitch McConnell criticized Trump’s budget by stating, “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate.” Trump’s budget also negatively affects those who he claimed would be a priority for him—coal workers. A Vox report discusses how cuts to the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration would greatly affect coal workers. Representative Hal Rogers (R) from Kentucky told Vox, “I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive.”
Trump’s budget proposal would greatly affect those that are most vulnerable in our society, as well as programs that play an integral role in creating a better educated country. However, it also affects those that belong to his political party and individuals who voted for him. Fortunately, Congress has the final word on what the actual budget will be. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that this budget proposal will pass through Congress unchanged. It will be interesting to see what President Trump’s response will be when Congress does not do what he wants.