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Terence Jeffrey / Feb. 14, 2018

Trump's Budget Never Balances

Can you tell which party made the following budget proposals?

Can you tell which party made the following budget proposals?

The first one said: “The budget proposes to eliminate federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”

“Services such as PBS and NPR, which receive funding from the CPB, could make up the shortfall by increasing revenues from corporate sponsors, foundations, and members.

"In addition,” it continued, “alternatives to PBS and NPR programming have grown substantially since CPB was first established in 1967, greatly reducing the need for publicly funded programming options.”

The second proposal took the contrary position.

It said: “The Committee values the contributions of public television and radio stations in serving the needs of their local communities. …

"In fulfilling the mission of the Public Broadcasting Act,” it said, “CPB should encourage federally funded content distributed through national organizations to focus on rural America, civic discourse and engagement, and life-long learning.”

So, which party believes the federal government should force taxpayers to fund CPB and which believes it should not?

Consider a similar conflict over another federal spending program.

One side said: “The budget proposes to begin shutting down the National Endowment for the Arts… given the notable funding support provided by private and other public sources and because the administration does not consider NEA activities to be core federal responsibilities.”

The other side responded: “The committee values greatly the longstanding collaborative relationship between the NEA and the states.”

So, which party favors forcing taxpayers to fund the NEA and which does not?

Answer: The Republicans.

Yes, the Republicans took both sides on these issues.

The Republicans in the White House called for eliminating federal funding of CPB and NEA. The Republican majority in the House called for funding them.

Trump took one side. House Republicans took the other.

Who won? So far, not Trump. But, then, Trump has not put up a fight.

Last May, when White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney presented Trump’s budget proposal to Congress, it included a document that outlined “$26.7 billion in program eliminations.” These included phasing out federal funding for CPB and NEA.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee rejected most of the administration’s program-elimination requests. It published a 231-page report on its funding bill for the Departments of Labor, HHS and Education that included the above-quoted argument for the $445 million it approved for CPB. It similarly published a 178-page report on its funding bill for the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency that included its argument for giving $145 million to the NEA.

The committee then rolled multiple funding bills into a single 1,658-page bill and sent it to the full House, where it was approved 211-198.

That bill was never considered in the Senate.

Instead, Congress has passed a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government funded into fiscal 2018. President Trump has signed each of these. The most recent continuing resolution, which Trump signed last week, funds the government until March 23, which is almost halfway through fiscal 2018.

This week, OMB Director Mulvaney presented Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal to Congress. In written testimony to the Senate Budget Committee, Mulvaney noted that this new proposal calls for “$26 billion in program eliminations.” These include, once again, phasing out federal funding for CPB and the NEA.

Last year, when the White House released the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, Mulvaney told the press: “It balances in the tenth year.”

This week, when the White House released the president’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal, Mulvaney told the press: “I hope there’s some value in being honest with people about what the fiscal situation is. But we don’t balance during the 10-year window.”

The bottom line: If President Trump served two full terms, and a Republican-controlled Congress passed the budget proposals he sent them with no alterations whatsoever, President Trump would never balance the budget.

Under Trump’s new budget proposal, the cumulative federal deficit over the next 10 years would exceed $7 trillion.

Rather than push back against Trump’s planned deficit spending, the Republican Congress is likely to push in the other direction.

In his new budget message to Congress, Trump said: “The current fiscal path is unsustainable and future generations deserve better.”

He is right.

But if an all-Republican government has neither the nerve nor the inclination to cut $445 million in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or $145 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, it will not stop itself from piling another $7 trillion in debt on the backs of future taxpayers.

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