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January 20, 2017

Trump Is Sharpening the Axe

How much will he cut the federal budget?

Budget cuts are something incoming administrations generally promise but seldom deliver. However, the prospect of a Donald Trump administration has put enough fear into the bureaucracy that nearly three of ten federal employees don’t plan on staying long enough to see what The Donald will be doing to government. We’ll believe it when we see it. (Not surprisingly, that same survey of government employees revealed that 62% of respondents voted for Hillary Clinton, compared to just 28% for Trump.)

And it’s no wonder that fiscal conservatives are salivating at this thought. Imagine the liberal horror at the thought of a federal government that no longer funds the often scatological and pornographic byproducts of the National Endowment for the Arts and its sister National Endowment for the Humanities. Imagine their angst at the prospect of privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (Hint: it’s already started.)

“Insiders” expect overall budget cuts of 10% and staff cuts of 20%, numbers they say would “rock Washington.” Steep cuts are also expected in several departments, most specifically Energy and Commerce, but also in Justice, State and Transportation. Even the Defense Department could be affected in the area of procurement.

Of course, these cuts would also curtail the boom times in the capital regions of Maryland and Virginia, where government-addled cities and counties surrounding the District — many of them boasting the highest median incomes in the country — will have to get by with fewer cars on their taxpayer-funded gravy train. What this means, of course, is that headlines about homelessness and unemployment and the stagnant economy will be back in style again after an eight-year absence. And the elite media won’t have to stray too far to find those sob stories — which sure beats having to report from rural areas in the South or rundown parts of the Rust Belt.

Seriously, though, a 10% budget cut would net a savings of about $400 billion, but that only brings us back to the spending levels of the leanest Obama budget (or the most bloated one ever submitted by George W. Bush, in 2008). It’s worth noting that so far in this century, through the years of Bush and Obama, our federal budget has just about doubled from $2 trillion to $4 trillion — and there’s no indication that Trump wants to make the sort of spending cuts that would require significant entitlement reform.

Yet, to quote the old axiom, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. There’s enough low-hanging budget fruit to satisfy those who wish to see spending cuts for years to come, so just getting the trend in the right direction will be a “yuuuge” accomplishment from the incoming president. Could it be that the era of Big Government is once again truly over?

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