WASHINGTON - After promising voters in 2016 that he would balance the budget, President Trump has proposed a $4.4 trillion spending plan for fiscal year 2019 that is dangerously unbalanced.
Just after signing a fiscal year 2018 budget into law that by the White House’s estimates will result in a nearly $1 trillion deficit, the administration’s chief budget architect says the president’s latest spending blue print will further balloon the amount of borrowing needed to pay all of the government’s bills next year.
“Does it balance? No, it doesn’t,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Monday.
In fact, the administration is projecting that the deficit would total $1 trillion sums in both 2019 and 2020, in part the result of huge tax cuts Trump signed that also called for an additional $500 billion in new spending.
To keep the budget from further exploding, the spending plan proposes reductions in Medicare and Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, and many other social safety net programs.
The growing amount of red ink in the Trump budgets is swelling the national debt well beyond $20 trillion. But that frightening figure hasn’t forced either Congress or Trump’s administration to cut a mountain of waste, fraud and abuse that can be found in all of the government’s departments, agencies, and offices.
Thus far in his presidency, I have not seen any effort on Trump’s part to mount a full-scale, government-wide offensive to reduce its budgets, save money, or get rid of needless expenditures that unnecessarily add billions of dollars to the federal budget’s mounting debt.
You could wallpaper every office in Washington many times over with the countless, investigative reports that are produced each month by the Inspector Generals’ and the Government Accountability Office’s army of accountants and investigators.
Reports that largely go unreported and are all too often ignored by the White House and Congress.
I know more than a little about this government-wide scandal because of my years as an investigative reporter for United Press International, uncovering waste that led to several books like Fat City: How Washington Wastes Your Taxes, Washington - City of Scandals, and The Federal Rathole.
The unending tales of waste and wantonness in the government’s insatiable spending practices never end. Take, for example, the travel practices of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt who insisted on flying first class on his trip to Paris that was recently exposed by The Washington Post.
“Pruitt settled into his $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight from the District to New York City,” the Post reported. “His ticket cost more than six times that of the two media aides who came along and sat in coach…”
He did some brief TV appearances in Manhattan, stayed in an upscale hotel, then after traveling with Trump on Air Force One for an event in Cincinnati, raced to New York on a military jet “at a cost of $36,068.50 to catch a plane to Rome.
His roundtrip ticket cost taxpayers over $7,000, “several times what was paid for other officials who went.” Then, in Rome, he got a private tour of the Vatican before flying to Bologna for a meeting with environmental ministers.
The total cost of his trip was an astounding $90,000.
This sort of luxurious yet wasteful spending goes on every day in government, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.
Meantime, Trump’s budget for the next two years seeks $13 billion to fight opioid addiction, and $18 billion to begin building portions of his wall along the Mexican border.
Funding to deal with the opioid menace is a sure thing, but funding for the wall still remains dubious at best.
But if Trump thinks he can offset some of the spending in his budget by slashing Medicaid by $250 billion over the next 10 years, and more than $200 billion from Medicare, he can forget it.
Congress is very reluctant to make politically damaging domestic spending cuts in an election year, especially in popular entitlement programs like Medicare for the elderly. There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that lawmakers will touch either program.
As for Trump’s proposal to spend $1.5 trillion to rebuild the nation’s decaying infrastructure in all of the 50 states, that’s not going anywhere in Congress. This is a state-by-state problem that can’t be fixed from Washington.
Better to turn over a large portion of the federal gas tax to the states, or even better, give them the entire gas tax revenue and watch the infrastructure rebuilding projects take off.