WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump unveiled a $4.4 trillion budget plan Monday that envisions steep cuts to America’s social safety net but mounting spending on the military, formally retreating from last year’s promises to balance the federal budget.
The president’s spending outline for the first time acknowledges that the Republican tax overhaul passed last year would add billions to the deficit and not “pay for itself” as Trump and his Republican allies asserted. If enacted as proposed, though no presidential budget ever is, the plan would establish an era of $1 trillion-plus yearly deficits.
The open embrace of red ink is a remarkable public reversal for Trump and his party, which spent years objecting to President Barack Obama’s increased spending during the depths of the Great Recession. Rhetoric aside, however, Trump’s pattern is in line with past Republican presidents who have overseen spikes in deficits as they simultaneously increased military spending and cut taxes.
“We’re going to have the strongest military we’ve ever had, by far,” Trump said in an Oval Office appearance Monday. “In this budget we took care of the military like it’s never been taken care of before.”
Trump’s budget revived his calls for big cuts to domestic programs that benefit the poor and middle class, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and student loans. Retirement benefits would remain mostly untouched by Trump’s plan, as he has pledged, though Medicare providers would absorb about $500 billion in cuts — a nearly 6 percent reduction. Some beneficiaries in Social Security’s disability program would have to re-enter the workforce under proposed changes to eligibility rules.
The White House used Monday’s event to promote its long-awaited plan to increase funding for infrastructure. The plan would put up $200 billion in federal money over the next 10 years in hopes of leveraging a total of $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending, relying on state and local governments and the private sector to contribute the bulk of the funding.
But after his aides talked up that plan over the weekend, Trump suggested that his infrastructure proposal wasn’t a big deal for him.
“If for any reason, they don’t want to support to it, hey, that’s going to be up to them,” he said of the Republican-controlled Congress. “What was very important to me was the military; what was very important to me was the tax cuts.”
There was immediate opposition from Democrats.
“The Trump budget proposal makes clear his desire to enact massive cuts to health care, anti-poverty programs and investments in economic growth to blunt the deficit-exploding impact of his tax cuts for millionaires and corporations,” said Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
Some Republicans, on the other hand, said spending was much too high.
“This budget continues too much of Washington’s wasteful spending — it does not balance in ten years, and it creates a deficit of over a trillion dollars next year,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. “We cannot steal from America’s future to pay for spending today.”
Trump’s plan aims at other familiar targets. It would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The administration wants NASA out of the International Space Station by 2025 and private businesses running the place instead.
All told, the new budget sees accumulating deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade; Trump’s plan last year projected a 10-year shortfall of $3.2 trillion. And that’s assuming Trump’s rosy economic predictions come true and Congress follows through — in an election year — with politically toxic cuts to social programs, farm subsidies and Medicare providers.
In stark numbers, the budget rewrites the administration’s talking points for last year’s tax plan, which administration figures such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised would more than pay for itself.
“Not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt,” Mnuchin declared in September.
Instead, Trump’s budget projects that tax revenues will plummet by $3.7 trillion over the 2018-27 decade relative to last year’s “baseline” estimates.
The budget also includes $1.6 billion for the second stage of Trump’s proposed border wall, a 65-mile segment in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Trump’s request last year for 74 miles of wall in San Diego and the Rio Grande Valley is pending before lawmakers right now.