Economic Justice

A Budget from Hell

June 15, 2017 – By Michael Drohan

On May 22, Donald Trump produced his Budget Proposal for 2018. If ever there was a statement that government is at the service of the 0.1 percent, of the richest sector of the US population, this is it. Both Democratic and Republican Administrations past ruled in the interests of the corporate and rich elite with a veneer of appeal to the poor and the working middle classes. With Trump, however, there seems to be little ambiguity. It is government by the rich, for the rich, and of the rich. How he can still pull off the Wizard of Oz act and enthrall a significant sector of the struggling classes must be among one of the wonders of the world.

Here are some of the horrors of this proposed budget, on the cutting side of the budget: Medicaid is in for a cut of $800 billion; nutritional assistance programs such as Meals on Wheels and Food Stamps are marked for a cut of $200 billion, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is in for a $72 billion cut. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is earmarked for a 31% decrease in its allocation, impacting clean air and water in the years to come. Additionally, student loan programs that benefit students who cannot presently afford to go to College will suffer, and cuts are also earmarked for scientific and medical Research and Development, an engine for economic growth and development over the decades. If one were to categorize all these budgetary cuts under one rubric, it would be to ensure that the poor become poorer, sicker, and hungrier, with no possibility for emerging from desperation, need, and poverty. Its inhumanity is scarcely imaginable and its heartlessness is beyond words. When one puts this budgetary scenario side by side with the conspicuous consumption of a $51,500 jacket displayed by Melania Trump in Riyadh recently, all one can say is obscene.

On the increase list of the ledger, the picture is equally obscene. Military spending, already bloated, is to be increased by $54 billion or 10%. For the militarization of the Mexican border, he budgets $2.6 billion and for building the crazy wall there is earmarked $1.6 billion. Infrastructure is to receive an increase in funding, which is one of the very few bright spots in the proposed bill. However, even that item is blighted, as it seems to be largely an underhanded way of giving welfare to corporations. How it works is that corporations will receive “loans” or grants at very low interest rates to build bridges, roads, and tunnels, which they will then own in perpetuity collecting tolls from their operation. It is very likely that this increase in military hardware and personnel will entail more military adventures abroad and more misery visited on many parts of the world.

As if punishing the poor to enrich the already rich were not enough, there was yet another sweetener for the billionaires: elimination of the estate tax. The proposal is for its entire elimination something which will benefit the richest 0.2% of the population. To add insult to injury, the elimination of this source of revenue for the Federal Government is by some sleight of hand presented as a source of increased revenues. As a case study of voodoo economics, it takes beating.

Perhaps the real kicker of the budget is that it bases its revenue figures on a growth rate of 3% in the US economy over the year 2018. The US has not seen this kind of economic growth since the 1960s, and such growth rates are beyond any reasonable predictions for the foreseeable future. Added to that, none of the measures outlined in the budget could be categorized as growth promoters. The opposite is the truth. To add to all this, the proposed budget breaks the most fundamental rules in any budgeting, which is double accounting. Specifically, the budget maintains that in 10 years the budget will be balanced due to the high rate of economic growth that it predicts (3%). But this same economic growth is also supposed to deliver an increase in revenues despite the proposed tax cuts. That makes it voodoo economics squared.

This budget presents a great challenge to all who are working for peace and justice. Our great task is how we can resist and push back against this monstrous budget proposal.

Michael Drohan is a member of the Editorial Collective and the Board of the Thomas Merton Center.


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