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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 1:00 am

Trump rolls out budget proposal

Defense, infrastructure up; social spending to take hit

ANDREW TAYLOR and MARTIN CRUTSINGER | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – 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 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 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, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and student loans. Retirement benefits would remain mostly untouched, although 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.

Trump's plan was dead before it landed. It came three days after the president signed a bipartisan agreement that set broad parameters for spending over the next two years. That deal, which includes large increases for domestic programs, rendered Monday's plan for 10-year, $1.7 trillion cuts to domestic agencies such as the departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development even more unrealistic.

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.

Trump also is proposing work requirements for several federal programs, including housing subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid. Such ideas have backing from powerful figures in Congress including Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who promises action on a “workforce development” agenda this year.

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 said spending was much too high.

“This budget continues too much of Washington's wasteful spending – it does not balance in 10 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.

But the domestic cuts would be far from enough to make up for the plummeting tax revenue projected in the budget.

Trump's plan sees a 2019 deficit of $984 billion, though White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney admits $1.2 trillion is more plausible after last week's congressional budget pact and $90 billion worth of disaster aid is tacked on. That would be more than double the 2019 deficit the administration promised last year.

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.

The budget also includes $1.6  billion for the second stage of Trump's proposed border wall.