Trump released a blueprint of his budget for discretionary spending today. It includes a big increase in military spending but balances it with massive cuts to other agencies, particularly the EPA, NIH and HUD. Real cuts, not “slowing growth” cuts.
There is little chance that the Congress will pass this budget. In the end, they will come up with their own plan. There is a lot that alarms me. The big cut to NIH would be a blow to public health and scientific research, including the research we need to deal with things like Ebola. Cuts to EPA sound good but unless you’re also cutting regulations, that just means longer delays in EPA evaluations and clearances. The budget also guts climate science since we apparently don’t have to care anymore.
Other cuts, like HUD and that National Endowment for the Arts, seem more reasonable. The gripping hand is that, with big increases in military spending and no entitlement reform, even Trump’s budget does nothing to get our debt under control.
Of course, the Left, being the Left, has decided to focus their criticism as stupidly as possible. They are claiming that Trump is canceling Meals on Wheels.
Are they right? Is Trump canceling Meals on Wheels? No he isn’t.
One of the cuts in the budget is longer overdue cutting of the Community Development Block Grant Program. The CDBG is a $3 billion program that ostensibly goes to developing poor communities but mostly goes to graft, corruption and waste. It blows massive amounts of money on wasteful projects, sees a huge chunk disappear into administrative costs and, unsurprisingly, sends most of its funds to wealthy communities around DC that can, frankly, fund their God-damned white elephants.
(Note: this is typical of programs that purport to develop communities up to and including the grandaddy of all “community development” pork barrels — public subsidies for sports stadiums. It’s odd how often governments decide that the best way to develop a community is to throw money at their rich friends.)
With such a juicy slice of government pork-barrel spending in danger, the Democrats had to find some way to save it. And so they scoured the budget until they found something. It turns out that one of the many things the CDBG program gives money to is Meals on Wheels.
Meals on Wheels is a great program. But their national program only gets 3% of their funding from government grants. Almost all of the rest of their funding comes from private sources. And a huge amount of its costs are covered by volunteers. So even if Meals on Wheels never saw another red cent of federal money, they would still be able to do almost everything they do right now.
This nonsense is typical of attempts to cut government spending. The federal government does not run a Federal Cat Kicking Program or a National Dog Beating Program. Almost all of its programs have noble intentions. Or at least noble labels. So even if a program is wasteful, it purports to fight illiteracy or feed the hungry or build communities. The people who benefit from a federal program — in the case of CDBG, that would be rich DC-area governments — are very invested in making sure it stays funded. By contrast, the people pay for it — that would be the rest of us us — only see a tiny part of their paychecks go to that particular program. And so Trump’s proposal to kill the wasteful CDBG program are cast as, “DONALD TRUMP IS TRYING TO STARVE SENIORS AND THIS PROGRAM ONLY COSTS YOU TWO CENTS A DAY!!” And, of course, our worthless media repeat that lie until the program is saved.
This is why we ended up with the sequester. Because the alternative to a dumb misguided across-the-board spending cut was no spending cut at all. Trump would be far better off simply setting a cap on how much discretionary spending he will accept before a veto and then let Congress squabble about where the money’s going. And if the Left really cares about Meals on Wheels, they can pony up another 3% of its funding themselves.