Terry H. Schwadron
March 12, 2019
Wait. Did I miss an election? Is there a new Congress in place voting on Trump administration budgets? Did the Democrats have an exorcism and now support spending oodles on a border Wall?
No, I don’t think so. So, the only explanations available to understand why President Trump would now propose spending $8.6 billion on new Wall construction in his proposed budgetfor the year must be either 1) Presidential delusion, 2) Some kind of weird new view of persuasion involving political amnesia that he can bring about, or 3) He doesn’t really want the Wall as much as he wants the issue of the Wall for political purposes.
A minute ago, the President was threatening to raid other budget lines to find money to support $5.9 billion to spend on the Wall. He shut down the government for more than a month in a snit to get approval, and, winning none, said he would declare a National Emergency to give him the legal authority to spend the money anyway. Remember?
Then at least the minimal number of Senate Republicans stood up and said what he was planning was unconstitutional and would oppose it, which is where we stand at the moment.
Now, in the new year’s budget, he wants that $5.9 billion, another $3.6 billion from the military construction accounts he would be raiding and the new $8.6 billion. That’s $12.2 billion in new proposed spending, if you’re keeping track.
So long as the same Congress is in place, with Democrats in the majority in the House, this proposal clearly is a non-starter.
On top of all this, the preview of the national White House budget proposal calls for wholesale spending cuts on any domestic spending while continuing to increase military spending. Indeed, he is using a bit of bureaucratic dodge by declaring overseas military spending outside the rules that require budget dieting, pushing much of his 4.7% military spending increase (including money for a Space Force) out of the regular budget and into an account called Overseas Contingency Operations that has been used mainly to finance wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and has therefore been exempt from congressional caps.
Details of the budget proposal were to be outlined yesterday. While military and wall spending go up, down goes everything else, including foreign aid, money for the arts and education, social spending. In addition, the document notes that the deficit is on the rise, and aims to eliminate any deficit 15 years rather than 10, while projecting continued economic growth north of 3% a year, an optimistic view. In specific, The White House budget would Medicaid block grants to states which both would would limit the program’s growth to the pace of inflation, always outpaced by health costs, squeezing public insurance for the poor and elderly.
Now, as a political document or banner rather than as a plan for spending, Trump’s budget is a perfect manifestation of the differences he has with Congress in general and with Democrats in particular. As such, it will be a matter of continuing speech-making, rallying and catcalling from the building presidential campaign, and shine absolutely no practical heat on the problems at hand.
Democrats undoubtedly will fall right into the same political pothole, choosing to take on Trump in his political wheelhouse rather than some alternative, positive plan. The federal budget proposal is a directional outline for the government, trying to show how money will be spent to stand in for policy and values that the administration wants to pursue.
Look, I understand that the President and I may disagree about budget priorities, but what I’m really seeking is a fact-based approach to governing that recognizes the realistic possibilities of putting solutions to work. We can endlessly debate a Wall and its efficacy to address the multiple problems that Trump outlines, but we should be able to expect a government that pursues plans that are feasible.
Is the President pressing for another government shutdown here? Does he want to put hundreds of thousands of federal employees on the street again? Does he learn anything from history — even if the history is three months old? Can the Democrats afford to simply stiff-arm the president on this matter that seems overwhelming important to a healthy minority of the country’s voters?
I cannot see anything resembling compromise here. In fact, this is America First in your face. This is the President talking to me like I am an idiot.