President Trump’s budget proposal is an affront to decency, economics and, at a basic level, math. It is full of both broken and false promises. It forces those who have the least to suffer the most and those who have the most to contribute the least. It is, in a word, unconscionable.
How else to describe a budget framework that makes room for hundreds of billions in tax breaks for millionaires and wealthy corporations, but insists on draconian cuts to services that ensure basic living standards for children, people with disabilities and senior citizens? This budget is so skewed toward the super-rich that many of its proposals are almost cartoonishly cruel.
Consider, for example, Trump’s proposal to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by up to 25 percent. Seventy-six percent of SNAP participants live in households with children. Roughly 12 percent live in households with at least one disabled person. Ten percent go to homes with elderly people. These are the people — not wealthy corporations, not billionaires — that Trump believes should do with less.
Then there is Medicaid, the health program that pays for the majority of all long-term and nursing home care for seniors and those with disabilities. While running for office, Donald Trump famously boasted about being the only Republican presidential candidate to promise not to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.
That promise must have been swiftly forgotten because his budget would cut Medicaid nearly in half. That is not a typo — in half. If Trump’s budget were enacted, within 10 years, Medicaid funding would be slashed by 47 percent.
For what reason does President Trump insist that we must deny children healthcare? What possible justification can he have for making it harder for senior citizens to get three healthy meals a day? What is his excuse for denying Americans with disabilities the protection of basic living standards? Because, he insists, it will create economic growth.
That’s right. President Trump’s budget claims that his proposals will generate so much growth that it will balance the budget. Of course, not one single independent analyst agrees with the economic projections that Trump relies upon. The president offers no realistic argument for how cutting Medicaid in half and denying food stamps to the elderly will unleash unprecedented economic growth. Maybe that is because there is no such argument.
Perhaps the president rests his economic assertions upon his equally ridiculous tax plan. That plan, laid out a few weeks ago, bestows enormous tax benefits on millionaires and corporations, but strangely, it does not actually appear in the budget. That might be because those tax cuts were estimated to cost the country nearly $6 trillion over the coming decade, more than all of Trump’s proposed spending cuts combined.
So, instead of showing the real cost of creating a new tax loophole for billionaires to use in order to pay a lower rate than many middle-class families pay now, or of rewarding multi-national companies who stashed income overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, the president’s budget simply assumes that revenues will be $2 trillion higher.
How does the president square his tax proposals, which would cost $6 trillion, with this budget proposal, which posits an additional $2 trillion in new revenue? He does not and he cannot.
President Trump’s budget request, with its cruel and counterproductive cuts, its magic growth assumptions and its fantastical ability to make a negative six turn into a positive two, will be dead on arrival in Congress, as it very much deserves to be. But don’t give congressional leaders too much credit. Speaker Ryan’s (R-Wis.) famous budgets from several years ago had many of the same warts, though Ryan was, perhaps, better at hiding them than President Trump is.
Soon, Republicans in the House and Senate will have to craft budgets of their own. They might be just as bad at budget math as President Trump, but one type of math, at least, they should understand: A majority of Americans oppose these kinds of policies. Seventy-four percent of voters oppose cuts to Medicaid, while 82 percent support raising taxes on the rich.
After all, it was only a few weeks ago that 125,000 Americans in over 200 communities marched to demand a fairer tax system, one that doesn’t skew toward the wealthy. Let us hope that congressional Republicans pay attention to the American people and decide to chart a more responsible, decent and arithmetically sound course than the president has.