Budgets are moral documents – and Trump’s budget is an immoral failure

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it half a century ago: budgets are moral documents. The budget that Trump sent to Congress this week is immoral as well as unworkable. It deliberately overstates the amount of money available, which will lead to even greater deficits.  Then it slashes programs that build for the future, protect clean air and water, and serve our most vulnerable citizens and children.

A budget built on lies

The budget starts with an assumption that the economy will grow by three percent a year for ten years. Last year the economy grew by 1.6 percent. According to NPR:

“The CBO projects U.S. economic growth will average nearly 1.9 percent over the next decade. Other estimates range between 1.6 and 2.1 percent, but no economist, Goldwein says, has arrived at figures close to the 3 percent the White House is projecting. “

The budget follows up with lies about taxes and tax cuts. The Washington Post reports:

“Trump has proposed cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, but his budget assumes that corporate tax receipts will increase almost every year. The budget says the U.S. government will collect $328 billion in estate and gift taxes over the next decade, but it also says Trump will eliminate the estate tax.”

Selling the future short

Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told the Washington Post:

“There’s this rosy optimism that somehow growth will magically occur, and yet it cuts the principal source of that growth,” Holt said. The proposal “savages research. Economists are clear: That’s where we ultimately get our economic growth.”

Even if you don’t believe in the economic benefits of research, what about health research?

The budget cuts a billion dollars from the National Cancer Institute, almost six billion from the National Institutes of Health –  more than one -fifth of its entire budget. The National Science Foundation gets an 11 percent cut.

The Centers for Disease Control identifies and looks for ways to stop diseases and epidemics. They get whacked with a 17 percent cut.  Should we worry, just a little, about the next influenza/HIV/AIDS/Ebola outbreak?

Protecting clean air and water

The budget cuts Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31 percent. The Hill reports:

“[T]he White House said those cuts would target the EPA’s regulatory efforts, climate change initiatives, research accounts, industrial clean-up measures, state grants and region-specific environmental work. Taken together, it would shutter 50 agency programs and eliminate 3,200 of the agency’s 15,000 jobs.”

The Interior Department gets an 11 percent cut.

Like a bully – pick on the weakest

According to Money magazine, the proposed budget “guts Medicaid.” Who does that hurt?

“The elderly and disabled account for around 60% of Medicaid’s expenditures, with the disabled, including the mentally ill, accounting for a full 42% of spending.

“The program is the country’s largest funder of long-term care expenses, covering 40% of the costs, as well as more than 60% of all nursing home residents. For Baby Boomers nearing or past retirement age, these funds are crucial…”


One more example: picking on hungry people. The budget would cut the food stamp program, now known as SNAP, by 25 percent. Vox reports:

“One of the big cuts proposed would also take a sledgehammer to a safety net program that’s been remarkably effective.

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has been helping keep Americans from going hungry since the 1960s. Formerly known as food stamps, the program began as a pilot under President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as part of the war on poverty. Today, SNAP is the biggest and most important nutrition assistance program: About 45 million Americans living below the poverty line — nearly half of them children — rely on SNAP to purchase food.”

Best budget news

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, called the budget “illegal” because it ignores spending caps. Senator John Cormyn, R-Texas, said  “Almost every budget I know of is basically dead on arrival.”

The best news about this immoral failure of a budget is that it’s not going to pass.

1 Comment

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One response to “Budgets are moral documents – and Trump’s budget is an immoral failure

  1. I was given your name by Dave Beal,
    my colleague at the CFR .
    You write interesting stuff (I am a legal resident
    In the US and citizen of The Netherlands).
    Please put me on your e-mail list, so I can keep
    reading your publications.

    Willy N. van Dooijeweert


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