Trump budget slashes LWCF, Medicaid; boosts border wall and defense spending

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump released his final budget before the 2020 election on Monday, calling for cuts to public programs like Medicaid while boosting defense spending.

The $4.8 trillion budget proposal will not become law, serving more as a policy statement than a legislative proposal from the White House. The budget does not balance within the 10-year window it projects, despite generous GDP growth assumptions of 3%.

GDP growth has yet to break 3% since Trump’s election, far below the 4–6% bump he described as easily within reach before taking office.

Eying changes in payments to hospitals and reforms to medical liability, the budget proposal projects spending on Medicare would fall more than half a trillion dollars over the next decade. The proposal calls for a work requirement and other changes to public programs such as Medicaid, which would see spending drop by more than $900 billion over the next decade as compared with the administration’s current baseline projections.

While Trump’s proposal would cut the budgets of most federal agencies, it would increase spending at the Department of Homeland Security for the next fiscal year by 3.2% and at NASA by 11.9%, with Trump eying an eventual mission to Mars. The additional funding at DHS would include $2 billion that would go toward Trump’s long-promised border wall and $182 million to hire additional Border Patrol agents and other personnel.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection agency’s budget for 2021 would drop by more than 26% under Trump’s proposal, with the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development seeing a similarly steep 22% cut.

The proposal would decrease the budget at the Justice Department by 2.3%, most of which would come from eliminating $505 million set aside for a federal prison in Letcher County, Kentucky. Trump officials have dismissed such construction as unnecessary due to declining prison populations.

Focusing on priorities coming out of the First Step Act, the criminal-justice reform bill Trump signed at the end of 2018, the budget calls for $244 million to add 8,700 beds to re-entry centers and $60 million to expand drug-treatment and training programs.

On the immigration front, the proposal would give $883 million to help immigration judges clear a mounting backlog of cases.

Among the cuts at the State Department would be the elimination of the Development Assistance and Assistance for Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia accounts. The budget proposal says the programs funded through those accounts, which totaled more than $4 billion in the 2020 fiscal year, would instead go through a consolidated State Department account.

The budget received a predictably cool reception from Democrats in Congress, who especially took aim at calls by the White House to cut Medicare and Medicaid.

“This is the future President Trump envisions for our nation: one where the federal government relinquishes any responsibility for the well-being of the American people and our nation,” House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth said in a statement. “What the president has put forth is a destructive and irrational budget that intentionally goes after working families and vulnerable Americans.”

Based on the White House’s projections, the budget would bring down deficits over the next decade by $4.6 trillion but would still run a $261 billion deficit in 2030 if enacted.

Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, applauded some portions of Trump’s proposal but said the deficit-reduction projections are based on overly generous assumptions.

“I’m glad the president’s budget aims to put debt on a downward path and proposes some important policy reforms to help achieve that goal,” MacGuineas said in a statement. “But when you peel away the rosy growth assumptions, the assumed reversal of spending increases the president has already signed into law, and the exaggerated and unspecified savings, we are still left with a mountain of debt.”