Food stamps or a border wall. Medicaid funding or fighter jets. Disability insurance or tax cuts for the rich.
These are the choices President Trump is forcing Americans to grapple with in his proposed budget. Or at least these are the choices Democrats are saying we’re going to have to make.
And they’re not altogether wrong.
Of course, there’s the requisite high drama involved in any major clash between the parties. The other side has to use words like “cruel” and “evil” and use an abundance of hyperbole in press conferences. We need those sensational headlines, after all.
But having accepted our politicians’ flare for extremism as a given considering today’s paralyzed and hyper-partisan times, we’re still left with a budget proposal that values the wrong things.
Trump’s budget actually goes after his own base –hard. The people who put the 45th president in office will stand to lose the most in access to health care, social programs and education.
This “America First” budget as OMB Director Mulvaney puts it, forgets about millions of Americans who aren’t “takers” as Paul Ryan famously argued, but hardworking Americans who are in genuine need of assistance. Moreover, Trump’s budget actually goes after his own base –hard. The people who put the 45th president in office will stand to lose the most in access to health care, social programs and education.
And it’s not just Democrats who think that this budget is “dead on arrival,” as the saying goes. There are GOP House members like Leonard Lance from New Jersey who takes issue with the significant cuts to Medicaid, safety net programs and imposing work requirements for food stamp recipients. "That is certainly a part of the budget with which I disagree," Lance said.
Pat Toomey, Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, a state that receives about $200 million annually in federal funds for a program that gives cash to poor families to pay their heating bills, called President Trump’s budget “sort of a set of goals…that doesn’t become legislation.”
Trump doesn’t fare much better as we head South. Tim Scott from South Carolina made it clear he wouldn’t even consider the plan. Over 15 percent of South Carolina residents use Medicaid. Scott likened the president’s budget to a “press release.” “I don’t think anyone is going to focus on the president's budget to decide how we create our own budget. I'm not overly concerned with the president's budget at all."
Then there are the bipartisan objections to the basic math involved in Trump’s budget. He claims that we’ll eliminate the deficit in 10 years, a far-fetched notion unto itself considering where we are because of the rapid fire economic growth we’ll see from his big tax cuts, both corporate and personal.
In his fuzzy math – or his team’s fuzzy math – the Trump budget relies on $2.1 trillion in additional revenue in the next decade from better growth, but what about the revenue lost from tax cuts? That money is essentially being double counted. First, it’s being used for tax policy and then it’s being used for deficit reduction.
Everyone knows you can’t have it both ways.
And Marc Goldwein, senior vice president for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, especially knows. “You can’t use the same money twice,” he said of the budget. Larry Summers, President Obama’s former adviser and Clinton Treasury Secretary, added that this is an “elementary” but “egregious accounting error.”
In this way, the budget is beyond the usual optimism we see in every president’s budget – it is a wish list after all. That said, Goldwein added: “I do think this is on a whole new level, based on what we’ve seen before,” and a senior GOP aide said this was “on the outer limits.”
The casualness with which many Republican representatives have treated this budget bears this analysis out. They know it’s just a thing the president does and then they’ll go ahead and do their own thing (with limited chance of getting anything major passed).
So there you have it. Bipartisan agreement that this budget isn’t only bad for Americans, but lacks the basic math to make it work. It goes above and beyond the usual “optimism” of a president’s budget into the realm of fantasyland. And what’s particularly disturbing to me about this budget is that President Trump’s fantasyland goes after so much that is fundamental to the lives of middle and lower income Americans.
Every Republican president’s proposal would ask for more military spending unless Rand Paul had miraculously won, but at least the majority of them have the good sense to know slashing entitlements this bluntly isn’t the way to get that new jet.
Jessica Tarlov currently serves as a contributor for FOX News Channel (FNC), offering political analysis and insight across FNC and FOX Business Network’s (FBN) daytime and primetime programming. She joined the network in 2017.