By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
WASHINGTON – President Trump plans to unveil on Tuesday a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities.
The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America First” message that powered Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent, spending more than $2.6 billion for border security – including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico – as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.
The wildly optimistic projections balance Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.
To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters whose backing propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion overall from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.
The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.
“It probably is the most conservative budget that we’ve had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
But in a signal that some of the proposed cuts to domestic programs are likely to face resistance even from hard-line conservatives, Meadows said he could not stomach the idea of doing away with food assistance for older Americans.
“Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far,” Meadows said.