This week Trump released his latest budget for 2019-20 fiscal year. It calls for $2.7 trillion in various social spending cuts over the decade, including $872 billion in reductions in Medicare, Social Security, Disability spending; another $327 billion in food stamps, housing support, and Medicaid; a further $200 billion in student loan cuts; and hundreds of billions more in cuts to education, government workers’ pensions, and funds to operate the EPA and other government agencies.
Not surprising, the $2.7 trillion in social program spending cuts will finance spending for the military and defense related programs like Homeland Security, Border walls, veterans, police, and programs like school vouchers.
Of course, the budget proposal is ‘dead on arrival’ with the US House of Representatives, which must approve all spending bills, according to the US Constitution. But don’t hold your breath. Trump may now have a back door to this Constitutional obstacle and eventually get his way on the budget, at least in part, to fund his military spending plans.
Trump’s National Emergency ‘Workaround’ & the Budget
It should not be forgotten, Trump just enacted his ‘national emergency ’ to build his Mexico border wall by diverting funds, without Congressional approval, from other sources in the US budget—i.e. a clear violation of the US Constitution. That ‘national emergency declaration’ will almost surely be approved by his current stacked US Supreme Court before the end of Trump’s first term. When approved, the precedent will allow Trump to repeat the action, perhaps on an even larger scale. So what’s to stop him from using the same national emergency precedent to shift other funds in the future from social programs to the military and defense, as he clearly proposes in this latest budget?
Some liberals and Democrats may declare he can never do that. But they said the same about his national emergency declaration to fund his wall, and he declared it anyway. He will continue to subvert and destroy long-standing rules and even Constitutional norms within the government. The national emergency declaration about funding his wall gave him his foot in the door. Will the Supreme Court eventually allow him to kick it open now in the future? One shouldn’t be too surprised with this President, who has little concern or respect for Democratic rights and institutions.
We now have a precedent in the national emergency declaration. So what’s to stop him from shifting even more funds from social programs to war, defense and the military? In other words, to spend a good part of his proposed additional $2.7 trillion for the Pentagon, and to simply divert the funds from Medicare, Social Security, Education, etc.? The Democrat Party majority’s control of the US House of Representatives’ may refuse to pass legislation to approve Trump’s $2.7 trillion budget shift to the military and defense. But the precedent now exists allowing him to do it. Trump is intent on getting what he wants, to pander to his right wing base, and get himself re-elected. He cares little for Democratic norms or civil liberties. Don’t underestimate his willingness to shred those liberties and subvert those norms.
As worrisome as the politics of the US budget process going forward may yet prove to be, however, the economics of Trump’s 2019-20 budget are more serious. It represents a trend that will continue whether or not the budget is passed, either in the short or the longer term by national emergency declaration.
The $34 Trillion National Debt
Whether Trump’s budget is passed or not, his fiscal policy (taxation and spending) already represents a faster escalation of US deficits and therefore Debt.