Trump’s Budget

March 23, 2017

March 23, 2017

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

All the talk in this town is about the Donald Trump Budget. Defense hawks say the $54B increase in defense spending is not enough. Liberals cry that the long list of cuts in spending on many non-defense programs will devastate the country.

I will just say – we should not be surprised. President Trump’s budget is consistent with his campaign promises. He said he would make cuts and reduce the budget deficit. His budget has $1.1 trillion in discretionary money to spend. He proposes to increase defense spending by $54B. That is a 10% bump up. He does that by taking that money away from other discretionary programs. He lets the ax fall on EPA with a 31% cut. I like that. The State Department and international programs give up 28.7%. The Labor Department and Agriculture come in next at a 20.7% reduction. The Education Department, Department of Housing, and Urban Development give up 13%, and so on.

Farmers and ranchers are cheering many of these cuts – government has gotten too big. However, there is some concern about what this could mean to the ag industry. Keep in mind that 20% of the USDA budget is discretionary. Farm subsidies and crop insurance are safe for now because they are not discretionary. They can’t be touched unless the Congress changes the law. The big entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, are also mandatory.

However, at some point, the President could ask the Congress to consider taking some money from some of the entitlement programs. Keep in mind the Congress has “the power of the purse.” The President can propose but the Congress will dispose. Although President Trump has said he would not touch Social Security or Medicare, that’s where the money is. A little tweak on those programs and that could bring in big money and make it easier to balance the budget.

Changing Social Security and Medicare is the third rail of politics. It would not be easy, but I think it is time to raise the retirement age.

Some Members of Congress have declared President Trump’s budget “dead on arrival.” However, it will influence what is finally passed by the Congress. Let the debate begin.

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Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.