Trump budget expected to seek historic contraction of federal workforce
March 12, 2017
President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce.
The spending budget Trump is set to release Thursday will offer the clearest snapshot of his vision for the size and role of government. Aides say that the president sees a new Washington emerging from the budget process, one that prioritizes the military and homeland security while slashing many other areas, including housing, foreign assistance, environmental programs, public broadcasting and research. Simply put, government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America, with private companies and states playing a much bigger role.
“Unfortunately, we have no alternative but to reinvest in our military and make ourselves a military power once again,” National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“If you’re doing that in an area where you have to balance the budget and you cannot create a further deficit, you have to make cuts. It’s no different than every other family in America that has to make the tough decisions when they need to spend money somewhere, they have to cut it from somewhere else.”
The federal government is projected to spend $4.091 trillion next year, with roughly two-thirds of that going mostly toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, poverty assistance and interest payments on the government debt. This spending is expected to be left untouched in the budget proposal next week.
What Trump will propose changing is the rest of the budget, known as discretionary spending, which is authorized each year by Congress. Slightly more than half of this remaining money goes to the military, and the rest is spread across agencies that operate things like education, diplomacy, housing, transportation and law enforcement.
Among Trump’s expected proposals are an increase in military spending of $54 billion, more money to start building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, and the creation of new initiatives that expand access to charter schools and other educational programs.
Trump and his advisers have said that they believe the federal workforce is too big, and that the federal government spends — and wastes — too much money. They have said that Washington — the federal workers and contractors, among others — has benefited from government largesse while many other Americans have suffered. Federal spending, they have argued, crowds the private sector and piles regulations and bureaucracy onto companies.
Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, has said Trump will lead a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” On Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Obama loyalists had “burrowed into government.” Last month, Trump said the government would have to “do more with less.”
Trump’s proposal comes at a time when the federal budget is facing massive structural shifts in society and the economy. Aging baby boomers are swelling the number of Americans collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of these programs will continue to grow faster for more than a decade, budget experts said. In addition, the expected rise in borrowing rates and the growing national debt are expected to push interest payments on the debt from $270 billion this year to $768 billion in 2027, outpacing any growth in tax revenue.
Mick Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program last week that it was important for the administration to change how Washington thinks.
“We don’t solve problems by simply throwing money at them,” he said.