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Trump Administration Defends 'Taxpayer-First' Budget

The administration of President Donald Trump has pitched its budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year as a benefit to Americans who make enough to pay federal income tax while encouraging those who rely on federal benefits to dig themselves out of poverty through work. The budget swiftly came under fire for proposing dramatic cuts to the social safety net.

On May 22, the Trump administration unveiled its 2018 budget, calling for over $1 trillion in cuts to programs for Americans in poverty and the middle class within the next decade.

The budget proposed slashing Medicaid by $610 billion, food stamp benefits by $191 billion, federal retirement benefits by $49 billion, programs to provide veterans with employment by $41 billion, child tax credits by $40 billion, student loan subsidies by $39 billion, and student loan forgiveness by $27 billion over the course of 10 years, according to Quartz.

The Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters that the budget would favor Americans who paid federal income tax over those who received federal benefits.

"This is a taxpayer-first budget," Mulvaney said. "For the first time in a long time the administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are paying the taxes."

In 2015, only 55 percent of Americans made enough money to pay direct federal income tax, meaning that Mulvaney pitched the administration's budget as a benefit for a little over half of the nation.

As for the steep cuts to federal programs, Mulvaney asserted that the budget would help motivate Americans in poverty to be self-sufficient.

"We're no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off of those programs," Mulvaney said, according to The Week. "We're going to measure compassion by the amount of money that we spend, but by the number of people that we help."

The Trump budget received a mixed reception even among GOP lawmakers. The chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, praised the partisan purity of the proposal.

"It probably is the most conservative budget that we've had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades," Meadows told The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky voiced his concern over the proposed cuts to the social safety net, particularly Medicaid.

"It's a problem -- it's a big problem," Rogers said. "I've got one of the poorest districts in the country, with lots of Medicaid recipients, as well as other programs... the cuts are draconian."

Trump had vowed on the campaign trail to not make any cuts to Medicaid. Former Republican Rep. David Jolly of Florida attributed the disparity between the president's campaign promises and his administration's budget to Mulvaney's influence.

"This is definitely a Mulvaney budget," Jolly told The Atlantic. "No question, because I don't believe the president understands the finer details of what he himself is submitting to the Congress."

Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma noted that Congress was unlikely to incorporate the majority of the Trump budget proposal in their own spending bills.

"We have to avoid the temptation of giving the president everything he wants, because if we gave him everything he wanted into writing we couldn't enact it," Cole said.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York asserted that the Trump budget was a betrayal of the president's voters.

"We have seen promise after promise just broken, as if they didn't even matter," Schumer said. “Candidate Trump campaigned as a populist, said he wanted to help the working people, but since he has taken office he has governed like a hard-right conservative -- pushing policies that help the uber-wealthy at the expense of the middle class."

Sources: The AtlanticQuartz, The Washington Post, The Week / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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