Republicans railed against federal budget deficits when a Democrat was in the White House. Now they don’t think red ink is such a big deal. The budget busting tax cut they rammed through Congress last December confirmed their hypocrisy. Some conservatives in the U.S. House continue to complain about the burgeoning federal debt but they are eager to use it as a battering ram to breakdown the social safety net and weaken the federal government.
President Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal years 2019 through 2028 didn’t get much attention in the media this spring but it provides a partial blueprint for the Republican agenda. Thanks to the Congressional Budget Office and Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation we have a detailed analysis of Trump’s spending plans. Every voter needs understand what he’s proposing before November. Make no mistake; this election will have huge consequences.
As expected, Trump wants to extend and make permanent those provisions of the 2017 tax act that are due to expire in 2025. This will add another $600 billion to federal deficits over 10 years. To offset the revenue lost due to his tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, Trump wants to scale back federal programs and services.
Health care is always the number one target of GOP spending cuts, particularly Medicaid. Trump’s budget assumes the complete repeal of Obamacare, which would cancel the Medicaid expansion in 33 states and eliminate the federal subsidies it provides to purchase health insurance. Federal Medicaid funding would be capped on a per-enrollee, inflation-adjusted basis and states would receive block grants to manage the health care needs of its less fortunate citizens. Total federal support for Medicaid over the next decade would be reduced by almost $1 trillion, leaving millions of Americans without adequate health insurance.
Medicare is one of the most popular federal programs and one of the most expensive. Perhaps because Trump promised not to touch Medicare during the campaign his budget only cuts $114 billion from Medicare spending over 10 years. Still, his proposals would require Medicare Part D beneficiaries to pay higher out-of-pocket expenses for some prescription drugs and reduce Medicare payments to certain health care providers. Most Republicans in Congress favor much deeper cuts. They want to transition Medicare from a government entitlement to a premium support program where profit-minded insurance companies would control health care for the elderly.
Another favorite for Republican spending cuts is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), which helps needy individuals purchase food. The Trump budget would cut $70 billion from this program through 2028. Republicans will also push to impose strict work requirements that will eliminate many current beneficiaries.
The President’s oft touted trillion-dollar infrastructure program isn’t funded in his budget. He provides for a mere $43 billion in more spending to repair roads, bridges, airports and the like over the coming decade.
Trump would only reduce Social Security benefits by around $18 billion over 10 years. Most of that would result from some restrictions on disability insurance benefits. But congressional Republicans want to further reduce benefits by applying a lower annual inflation adjustment rate called chained CPI. Many of our elderly would suffer even if a few dollars were cut from their monthly benefits. And over time these yearly reductions would add up.
The President proposes cutting subsidies for federal student loans that would save the government $103 billion between 2019 and 2028 and he would reduce outlays for job training. Trump would increase defense spending by $674 billion and slash budgets for other government agencies by a whopping 37 percent ($2 trillion) over the next decade. The State Department, the EPA, the Small Business Administration, the Transportation Department and the Agriculture Department would be degraded by budget cuts from 29 to 15 percent respectively. Federal funding for education would also be cut significantly.
Republicans frequently talk about freedom – except, of course, for a woman’s reproductive rights and the LGBT community. Primarily they mean freedom from government control. But I keep wondering what they envision for the average American? What public good is accomplished by giving tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy? How is the welfare of the nation improved by cutting health care benefits and food stamp funding? Whose life is improved when environmental protections are eliminated and public education is downgraded? And how is the Republican brand of “freedom” good for the elderly, the poor, the sick and the hungry?
The way I see it, there are three major components of American society, the people, the government and corporations. The people have lost significant influence due to special interest money in politics while major corporations have steadily gained power. These large entities aren’t concerned about public welfare; their quest is to increase shareholder profits. Yet Trump, who campaigned as a “drain the swamp” populist, and the GOP want to cripple the federal agencies that are responsible for protecting us from corporate abuses. Isn’t it obvious that the deep budget cuts Trump is proposing will eventually leave Americans at the mercy of a corporate plutocracy?
Wresting control of Congress from Republicans this fall isn’t just about getting some leverage over Trump and applying real oversight to the corruption that is permeating his administration. It’s also about preventing wealthy special interests from gaining more control over “we the people.”