Bureaucrats braved a bad week.
Donald Trump proposes cuts of 29 percent to the State Department, 21 percent to the Departments of Agriculture and Labor, 18 percent to Health and Human Services, and 31 percent to the Environmental Protection Agency in a partial outline of his budget entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and programs supporting school choice receive boosts. For pretty much everything else, Trump lowers the boom.
“The first cut is the deepest,” Cat Stevens told us. But when the deepest cut comes as the first it indicates what a coddled existence so many government programs lead. When it comes to being lucky, they’re not cursed. But that luck all changed with the release of the president’s proposed budget. He doesn’t merely cut programs. He eliminates them as though contestants on his reality show.
“Our aim is to meet the simple, but crucial demand of our citizens,” Trump noted, “a Government that puts the needs of its own people first.”
Boondoggles up for elimination did not meet this demand. In several instances, even a price tag of free makes the programs prohibitively expensive.
Taxpayers subsidize the Legal Service Corporations to provide non-taxpayers the funds to sue the taxpayers. We bankroll the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — four words ill-suited for Uncle Sam’s subsidy — to encourage American businesses to spend their dollars in foreign countries. The Corporation for National and Community Service commands a billion dollars annually from the citizenry to encourage the citizenry to give their time freely to worthy causes — do as they say, not as they do.
Surely some think tank somewhere frowns on the austerity. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the U.S. Peace Institute, two such Washington institutions dependent on Washington, no doubt condemn the cuts. But who outside the Beltway thinks that the capital so desperately needs another think tank that Americans should involuntarily donate capital?
The McGovern-Dole International Food Program, named in honor of two presidential losers, loses its funding. So, too, does Essential Air Service, which subsidizes plane travel for those living away from major airports, and Abandoned Mine Land grants, bankrolled by “fees paid by active coal mine operators on each ton of coal mined.”
The republic, which endured without the Minority Business Development Agency and Global Climate Change Initiative for most of its existence, now must muster up the courage to survive without them.
Trump, who exhibited a penchant for dividing conservatives during the campaign, unites them here. Never Trumper Glenn Beck praised the blueprint. A National Review piece lauded “bold and innovative reforms to discretionary spending.”
Just when it looked as though the raison d’être of the postwar conservative movement, limited government, became something conservatives forgot to conserve, Trump, who focused on immigration, foreign policy, and trade during the campaign but not the size of government, surprises with a budget blueprint that looks like it used The Conscience of a Conservative as its blueprint.
Alas, the president can propose anything. Spending bills, the Constitution informs, must start in the House of Representatives, which, although heavily Republican, also remains tethered to special interests. Both Houses of Congress figure to influence the 2018 budget more than the president. Senator Lindsey Graham calls Trump’s plan “dead on arrival” — and he’s a Republican.
But Graham and others regarded Trump as “dead on arrival” as a candidate. An unconventional politician resides in the White House because we live during unconventional days. Whether the budget passed resembles the budget proposed remains for time to tell. Whatever gets passed, business as usual looks like it’s dead on arrival.