It’s not uncommon for a president’s budget proposals to be declared dead on arrival by Congress. President Trump’s budget began decaying the moment it hit the Republican Congress on Tuesday.
That’s the good news, so harsh is this budget proposal. Federal spending does need to be brought under greater control, just not on the backs of the poor, the weak and the struggling – the very people Trump promised to protect in his campaign for the White House.
Here’s how bad it is: Even Rep. Chris Collins, a usually unshakable supporter of the president, criticized key aspects of the plan. Although the Clarence Republican praised the spending plan’s unlikely claim of tax cuts leading to a balanced budget, he was unwilling to accept the proposal’s disastrous cuts to the National Institutes of Health, Community Development Block Grants, Meals on Wheels, Great Lakes funding and other programs. And that’s from a Trump man.
Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, is also a supporter of the president, if a less vocal one. He, too, pledged to support programs that are “geared toward the lower-income.” Among them is Medicaid, which Trump wants to cut by a disastrous $600 billion.
Reed proposed, not unreasonably, that Congress should nonetheless closely examine the nation’s anti-poverty programs in a thoughtful way, reviewing them for efficiency and effectiveness before cutting. That’s a reasonable approach, but it misses the larger point.
The big money in the federal budget is in the military and entitlements, especially health care. Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” Congress will have to focus its attention on military spending and health care if its goal is honestly to reduce federal spending. And it should do so following Reed’s approach.
The question is whether Congress is truly interested in making such meaningful cuts. Military spending means jobs – and votes – in just about every one of the nation’s congressional districts, including in Western New York. But if Washington is serious about reducing spending, it needs to look at the efficiency and effectiveness of the money it is spending on defense. There’s no getting around that.
The same goes for health care, which is on track to consume 20 percent of gross domestic product, an unsustainable level of spending. That doesn’t mean throwing Americans to the wolves, but it does require a searching and fair-minded look at where the nation is spending health care dollars and what it gets in return.
That would be a better approach than one that slashes wildly, betrays the president’s voters and has absolutely no chance of passing.