Trump budget: Military wins, environment, aid lose big | News

Donald Trump will ask US Congress for drastic cuts to many federal programmes as he seeks to increase defence spending and spend more money deporting illegal immigrants.

In a plan designed to translate campaign promises into dollar and cent commitments, the Republican president proposed a 28 percent cut in state department funding.

That could be a signal for steep reductions in foreign aid and funding to UN agencies, with knock-on effects around the world.

The Pentagon will be the major winner with a nearly 10 percent boost – shovelling more cash towards a defence budget already greater than that of the next seven nations combined.

Separately, about $4bn will be earmarked this year and next to start building a wall on the US southern border.


Trump has repeatedly claimed that Mexico will pay for that wall – which will cost at least $15bn, according to estimates by the Bernstein Research group, a consultancy firm.

Trump’s proposal covers only a fraction of the $3.8 trillion federal budget – which is dominated by health, pension and other baked-in costs.

The text will be heavily revised and enlarged on by Congress, before a full budget is released around May.

In that sense, the plan is as much a political statement as a fiscal outline: a fact not lost on the White House.

“This is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” Mick Mulvaney, White House budget chief, said.

The former Congressman said he scanned Trump’s campaign speeches for inspiration.

The budget is a signal to Trump’s supporters that he is a “man of action” and not a “typical politician”.

Trump is looking to rally his base, amid multiple controversies over his Twitter outbursts, Russian meddling in the election that brought him to power and a rift with Congressional Republicans over health-policy changes.

READ MORE: Trump ‘seeks $54bn increase’ in military budget

According to Gallup, Trump has approval ratings of 40 percent, a low for any modern president weeks into his tenure.

But security has been a major vote winner. An Economist/YouGov poll found that 51 percent of Republicans believe the US will be safer from terrorism at the end of his term.

The budget may also be seen as a signal to the world that Trump’s US may be less engaged and will put “America first”.

Diplomats and some former defence officials have already sounded a warning that less spending on things like democracy promotion and humanitarian aid will spell more trouble, and military spending, down the road.

More than 120 retired generals and admirals recently signed a letter warning “that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone”.

They cited Jim Mattis, now defence secretary, as once saying “if you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition”.

‘Drastic cuts’

The Environmental Protection Agency, which helps monitor air, water and other standards, will also see significant cuts.

That is in keeping with Trump’s promise to gut regulation.

“We believe that the core functions [of the EPA] can be satisfied with this budget,” said Mulvaney.

On Wednesday, Trump travelled to Detroit, the home of the US car-manufacturing industry and announced he will freeze targets to limit future vehicle emissions.

READ MORE: Trump administration to ’empower’ US police forces

Steve Bannon, Trump’s top adviser, has promised a broader “‘deconstruction of the administrative state”.

But Trump’s plan is already facing criticism from Democratic politicians.

“It will prescribe drastic cuts in many of the programs and agencies that keep America safe, whether it’s environmental programmes, whether it is food safety, drug safety,” said John Yarmuth, Kentucky representative.

The senior member on the House of Representatives budget committee speculated that the proposal could be a negotiating position, an opening salvo in Trump’s “art of the deal”.

“If they want to negotiate with the health and safety and future of the American people, then that’s pretty cynical,” he said.

Source: News agencies

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