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Trump Cabinet to Defend Budget         05/24 06:17

   President Donald Trump is sending Congress a $4.1 trillion spending plan 
that relies on faster economic growth and steep cuts in a range of support 
programs for low-income individuals to balance the government's books over the 
next decade.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top officials in President Donald Trump's Cabinet are 
heading to Capitol Hill to defend his plans to cut domestic programs and parry 
Democratic criticism of his tax proposals.

   Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appears Wednesday before the House Budget 
panel while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will testify at the tax-writing 
House Ways and Means Committee. The budget contains virtually no further detail 
on taxes beyond the cuts the administration proposed in a one-page outline last 
month.

   Trump on Tuesday released a 10-year budget plan containing jarring, 
politically unrealistic cuts to the social safety net and a broad swath of 
domestic programs.

   The plan, Trump's first as president, combines $4.1 trillion for the 
upcoming 2018 fiscal year with a promise to bring the budget back into balance 
in 10 years, relying on aggressive spending cuts, a surge in economic growth 
--- and a $2 trillion-plus accounting gimmick.

   Trump's budget is simply a proposal. There's little appetite among Capitol 
Hill Republicans for a genuine effort to balance the budget; GOP lawmakers this 
year are instead pressing to rewrite the tax code and forge a spending deal 
with Democrats that would permit higher military spending.

   Trump's budget holds true to his campaign pledge to leave Medicare and 
Social Security pension benefits alone and contains spending increases for the 
military and veterans, but it treats most of the rest of the government as fair 
game. It foresees an overhaul of the tax code, which analysts say could direct 
most of its benefits to upper-income earners.

   Trump won support from GOP leaders.

   "Here's what I'm happy about. We finally have a president who's willing to 
actually even balance the budget," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "At 
least we now have common objectives. Grow the economy, balance the budget."

   Many rank-and-file Republicans recoiled from the cuts, however, which would 
squeeze foreign aid and domestic programs funded annually by Congress by about 
10 percent next year and $1.4 trillion over the coming decade.

   Mulvaney, a former tea party congressman, is the driving force behind the 
Trump budget plan, winning the president's approval for big cuts to benefit 
programs whose budgets are essentially on autopilot.

   Food stamp cuts would drive millions from the program, while a wave of 
Medicaid cuts --- on top of more than $800 billion in the House-passed health 
care bill --- could deny nursing home care to millions of elderly poor people. 
It would also force some people on Social Security's disability program back 
into the workforce.

   Other cuts in Trump's budget include $63 billion in cuts to pension benefits 
for federal workers by eliminating cost-of-living adjustments for most workers 
and requiring employees to make higher contributions. In agriculture, the 
proposed budget would limit subsidies to farmers, including for purchasing crop 
insurance, a move already attacked by farm state lawmakers.

   The budget does feature a handful of domestic initiatives, including a 
six-week paid parental leave program championed by Trump's daughter, Ivanka, 
that would be designed and financed by the states through cuts to unemployment 
insurance. Some $200 billion in federal infrastructure investments are promised 
to leverage another $800 billion in private investment, though the idea has yet 
to get much traction.

   Trump's balanced-budget goal depends not only on the growth projections that 
most economists view as overly optimistic but also a variety of accounting 
gimmicks, including an almost $600 billion peace dividend from winding down 
overseas military operations and "double counting" $2.1 trillion in revenues 
from economic growth --- using them to both pay for tax cuts and bring down the 
deficit.


(KA)

 
 
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