Trump budget promises balance in decade, relies on deep cuts

Published 7:52 am Tuesday, May 23, 2017

WASHINGTON  — President Donald Trump is proposing to balance the federal budget within a decade by making sharp cuts to social safety-net programs like food stamps and Medicaid and offering optimistic estimates of economic growth and tax revenues to fulfill the promise of a government back in the black.

Tuesday’s budget blueprint faces a skeptical reception from Congress, where Republicans and Democrats oppose Trump proposals to cut domestic agencies and foreign aid by 10 percent and are recoiling from a $1.7 trillion cut over the coming decade from mandatory government benefit programs. Cuts to Medicaid go beyond the $800 billion-plus contained in a House-passed health care rewrite. A 10-year, $193 billion reduction in food stamps — almost 30 percent — promises to drive millions of people off the program.

Trump would keep campaign pledges to leave core Medicare and Social Security benefits for the elderly alone and his cuts to domestic spending would be redirected to the Pentagon. He promises a new parental leave program championed by his daughter, Ivanka, but will fall short on his promises for a “massive tax cut.”

The budget is getting a low-key unveiling with the president traveling overseas. Trump’s plan, drawn up by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, lands as Trump’s GOP allies in Congress are grappling with repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s health care law and looking ahead to a difficult rewrite of the loophole-clogged U.S. tax code. Trying to balance the budget isn’t in the plan on Capitol Hill, but conservative Republicans are pushing for some action this year on spending cuts.

Because Trump largely leaves alone Social Security or Medicare, he’s proposing deep cuts to other so-called mandatory programs such as Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poorest and many disabled Americans. Trump’s budget, people familiar with the document say, would impose tighter limits on Medicaid’s growth rate than the House GOP’s health bill.

The cuts to food stamps are several times larger than those attempted by House Republicans a few years back and comprise the bulk of a 10-year, $274 billion proposal that’s labeled as welfare reform. Another $72 billion over 10 years would come from Social Security’s disability insurance program, including $50 billion in savings achieved by helping recipients obtain jobs and get off the program.