President Donald Trump is preparing to give his first congressional address, an address during which the President has stated he will press a bold agenda to the Republican-controlled Congress. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the President would highlight “public safety, including defense, increased border security, taking care of our veterans, and then economic opportunity, including education and job training, health care reform, jobs, taxes and regulatory reform.”
By most accounts President Trump will center a significant portion of his address on fulfilling many of his campaign promises. It is expected that much his speech will revolve on issues of security and public safety which candidate Trump made the focus of his campaign.
In doing so the President hopes to provide an optimistic, forward-looking vision of American life over the next four years.This is focus and optimism is expected to be highlighted in the budget proposal the President will present to Congress.
But how optimistic? What does this optimism look like? And exactly who should be optimistic?
In order to answer these questions it is necessary to examine not only what has occurred in the 38 days since the swearing-in of President Donald Trump but also to make educated guesses as to his first budget proposal. This latter aspect must be done in two parts. First, what will be in the budget proposal. And two, what will this proposal mean for policy moving forward?
President Trump has signed a number of executive orders and presidential memorandums since taking office. A number of these deal with issues of national security and public safety. While the President’s orders to enhance controls on immigration have gotten the most attention, he has also signed orders and memoranda regarding ISIS, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, reducing the crime rate, the organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council and rebuilding the armed forces.
These priorities of the administration appear to be reflected in the President’s first budget proposal. It has been widely reported the President will seek $54 billion in additional military spending, focused mainly on military infrastructure such as ships for the Navy, planes for the Air Force and additional monies spent on U.S. nuclear forces.
This increase will be supported by requisite cuts to programs and departments related to the environment, education, science, poverty, and foreign aid.
In that the President’s budget proposal is expected to reflect his executive orders and memoranda, it is thereby informative to analyze what other budgetary priorities may be gleaned from these legislative actions.
The first executive order signed by President Trump was regarding “Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal”. It is expected that the President’s address will include at least some mention of his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
The problem is that the President appears to be struggling with an alternative to the healthcare program he had promised to repeal his first day in office. Furthermore, the President’s healthcare ideas seem to clash with those of congressional Republicans.
The President also signed an executive order promising making spending on infrastructure projects a priority of his administration. And he recently declared that he is still committed to rebuilding the roads and bridges of America. Just not right now. Also, it is unclear exactly how he will balance the budget and pay down the national debt while spending $550 billion on infrastructure improvements.
Additionally, paying for “the wall.”
Another policy President Trump is expected to talk about during his address is his tax plan. The President has discussed the need for a simpler and fairer tax system in the past. And it is known the President will make changes to the tax brackets of American citizens. However, analysis of what is known about these potential changes indicate they would be more beneficial the more you make.
Politico obtained a list of 11 bullet points from the White House which purportedly outline the President’s address. According to one bullet point,
Americans can expect a speech that is grounded firmly in solving real problems for real people. How can we make sure that every American who needs a good job can get one? How can we get kids who are trapped in failing schools into a better school? How we can keep gangs and drugs and violent crime out of their neighborhoods?
Donald Trump campaigned on the promise of government for “real America”. Governance for real Americans. Policies which were not for special interests or elites. Policies which eased the burden of regular people. Policies which protected regular Americans. Real security and safety for real American citizens.
The problem is that many of President Trump’s potential policies do no such thing.
Obamacare is more popular than ever as many people begin to realize it is the same thing as the Affordable Care Act and that it provides healthcare and healthcare subsidies to those who may otherwise be left without such services. Furthermore, they now realize it may go away without a replacement.
Many Americans may no longer be able to afford healthcare if no replacement to Obamacare is put in place prior to any potential repeal, new tax plans increase their payments, there are significant cuts to the social safety net, new import taxes which may limit cheap goods available to Americans as well as decrease American exports, there remains little movement on jobs, and have their protections from corporations and special interests reduced.
A budget proposal, especially a president’s first budget proposal, is a significant signal as to how the President wants to reshape the country. In many ways this reshaping may be beneficial. President Trump will not be making cuts to entitlement programs. U.S. infrastructure is in severe disrepair. And the tax code needs to be fixed.
Yet the policies which may result from President Trump’s first budget proposal appear to do more harm than good. Hurting real Americans and harming U.S. national security.
A few of caveats are in order. First, a budget proposal is just that, a proposal. The budget put forth by the President is not automatically passed by Congress. In fact, in recent years Congress has failed to pass a budget. Second, it is unknown exactly what will be included in the budget proposal. What has been reported may be altered or altogether untrue. Finally, policies do not flow directly from a budget.
President Trump’s first congressional address promises to be a historic event. But it is unclear exactly for whom history will be beneficial.
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