Trump’s first proposed budget, which was unveiled on Monday, contains massive cuts to Medicaid that go far beyond the damage already proposed by the American Health Care Act—an additional $610 billion in cuts on top of the $880 billion proposed by House Republicans. It slashes the food stamp program by $190 billion, or 25 percent; the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by $21 billion, or 10 percent; and the earned income tax credit by $40 billion. There are also substantial cuts to a number of crucial federal departments, including State, the EPA, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development. At the same time, it would effect a massive transfer of wealth from the poorest Americans to the richest.
Budgets, of course, are ultimately decided by Congress. But budget proposals are useful for two reasons: They show the president’s priorities and they also present a rubric for Congress. In this case, the wish list presented by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney is in line with what we’ve heard from Republicans for years, if not decades: that substantial cuts to the welfare state and to the federal government are needed and that tax policy should favor the wealthy.
So, while Congress’s budget will likely look different than Mulvaney and Trump’s proposal, it’s fair to say that congressional Republicans and the White House are in broad agreement about priorities. (That said, Trump’s unpopularity and the fact that this budget will certainly receive no support from Democrats will probably play a role in the final product.)
There’s another problem with Trump’s budget, however. It contains a massive accounting error. The Trump administration claims that the deficits its proposed budget will create will be offset by $2 trillion in economic growth. This is absurd and won’t happen, but it’s necessary for the budget math to work. But the Trump administration has already used that $2 trillion economic growth argument to account for the deficits that its proposed tax cuts would run. In other words, it is using the same magical, made-up number twice, to pay for two different projected deficits.
This reaffirms two things about Trump. The first is that, despite his campaign rhetoric, Trump is governing as a typical steal-from-the-poor-to-pay-the-rich Republican. The second is that this administration’s cynicism is only matched by its incompetence. Its Madoff-esque accounting tricks are so brazen that they would be laughable if they weren’t so horrific.