The federal budget for next year is out today. May it rest in peace.
This is Trahant Reports.
Every winter the White House releases a budget for the federal government. The document outlines the president’s priorities in the year ahead. Then Congress pretty much ignores that document and enacts a budget of its own. (And that is true no matter which party runs is in control.)
But even if the budget does not become law, it does open a window into the thinking of any presidential administration.
This budget follows a familiar pattern. It will spend $4.8 trillion and carries a promise to balance the budget within 15 years. But to get there it carries deep spending cuts to domestic programs, an idea that Congress has rejected. It also would spend more money on the military and leave Social Security and Medicare benefits the same.
An election year document. Republicans will like the increase in military spending and Democrats are unhappy with the spending cuts.
Last year it was pretty much the same proposal. Then Congress said no until a deal was reached between the White House and House Democrats. This plan erases that deal by imposing an immediate 5 percent cut to all non-defense spending. Agencies that would be hard hit include a 27 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, fewer dollars for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and 9 percent cut to the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. (The agencies charged with figuring out how to treat the coronavirus).
A special concern to Indian Country: The proposal to take $700 billion from Medicaid over the next decade. One way the Trump administration hopes to accomplish that goal is by creating waivers for states to swap program flexibility for less funding. The idea is then states could design programs that would better serve citizens. That’s the theory anyway.
** Extra: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says: “The proposed waivers are a lose-lose proposition for people with Medicaid and for states. Far from promoting better health outcomes, as the administration has claimed, the waivers would worsen people’s health by taking away coverage and reducing access to care. For states, they would mean greater financial risk, with federal funding cuts most likely to occur during recessions, public health emergencies, and other times when states face high demand for coverage and strain on other parts of their budgets. States taking up the proposed waivers should also expect to face litigation, since the waivers appear to violate federal law in several respects.” **
In recent years the Indian Health Service has been dramatically reshaped by Medicaid spending; it now accounts for funding for one out of four patients. And that’s a conservative figure. It’s likely higher.
In the State of Indian Nations, National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp called the federal budget “incompetent.”
Nothing in the document released today will change that perception.
I am Mark Trahant.