The big picture: The White House budget has no chance of becoming law, but the federal government is on track for more chaos.
This is Trahant Reports.
President Donald J. Trump has outlined his budget for fiscal year 2020. It would slash funding for virtually every domestic program, add money to the military budget, and of course, build a border wall. The document is titled: “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First.” The president’s budget would “save” nearly $2.7 trillion, more budget cuts proposed than any administration in history.
Only Congress, not the president, decides how money will be spent in the federal system. At best the administration writes a budget that initiates a conversation. The real work of the budget occurs in the Senate and House appropriations committees.
Not that presidential budgets are totally worthless. As the White House said a year ago the budget is a “messaging document.” Last year’s budget, for example, assumed Congress would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a block grant. As I wrote a year ago: “The votes are not there for that. It’s fantasy.”
And that was when Republicans controlled Congress. The House is now under Democratic Party control turning the dial even more toward government.
So it’s not useful to get excited about the numbers in this White House budget (probably any presidential budget for that matter) and instead focus on the larger issues.
One big picture issue is that Congress and the president must reach a deal on spending under the Budget Control Act or there will be budget cuts of more than 11 percent on the existing budget figures (Defense and Domestic programs are cut about the same under the sequester … an idea to make it easier to reach a deal).
This is the economic version of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. A three-way gunfight, or a truel. The players: Those who hate government, especially domestic programs, that also want money for the military. Those who would like to significantly spend less on the military, but spend more on domestic federal programs. And then the President of the United States is a wild card. (At least in the movie the wild card character fought without actually having a loaded gun.)
Congress knows this chaos is expensive and bad management. There might be enough votes around to fix the process, particularly for programs involving American Indians and Alaska Natives. Congress could appropriate funds for key programs, such as those that provide services in Indian Country, at least a year in advance.
This is already happening for many education programs and there is growing support for Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs advance funding from members of both Democrats and Republicans..
Given the increasing budget uncertainty … this might be the year to make it so.
I am Mark Trahant.