January 22, 2018
Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump’s budget ploughs cash into military

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s first budget outline, calling for a security-heavy re-alignment of federal spending, drew quick resistance from the US Congress, with especially strong criticism of proposed deep cuts to diplomatic and foreign aid programmes.
Trump’s plan, submitted to Congress yesterday and showcasing his administration’s economic priorities, is just the first volley in what will likely be an intense battle over spending in coming months. Although Trump’s fellow Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives, Congress holds the federal purse strings and seldom approves presidents’ budget plans.
Republicans applauded the president’s call for a 10-percent increase in military spending next year in a budget that would also finance construction of a wall on the border with Mexico and provide more resources for deporting illegal immigrants. But even some conservative Republicans who traditionally fight for smaller government labelled as misguided the Trump administration’s request for a 28 percent, or US$10.9 billion, cut in US State Department funding and other international programmes.
Representative Ted Yoho, a member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, said international programmes were cost-effective, adding they “help advance US national security interests at home and abroad and spur economic job growth.”
Trump’s plan would eliminate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation that helps spur private investment in foreign development projects. Yoho called it “an amazing corporation” that he said helps generate billions of dollars in US exports.
The budget also drew criticism internationally. The French ambassador to the United Nations, François Delattre, warned that cutting funding of global programmes could fuel instability.
Democrats, whose votes would be needed later this year to sign off on the spending bills that implement any budget blueprint given the slim Republican hold on the Senate, attacked the proposed reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and to programmes that benefit the poor.
The White House proposal would inflict a 31 percent, or US$2.6 billion, cut on the EPA. Some veteran Republicans, including Senator Rob Portman, a former White House budget chief during the administration of president George W. Bush, vowed to preserve the EPA’s Great Lakes restoration programme that Trump wants to eliminate.
House Speaker Paul Ryan sidestepped reporters’ questions about whether he supports State Department cuts, saying the White House blueprint was just the start of the budget process.
Other proposed reductions and cuts included community development grants at the Housing Department and more than 20 Education Department programmes. Funding would disappear for 19 independent bodies that count on federal money for public broadcasting, the arts and regional programmes.
“Throwing billions at defence while ransacking America’s investments in jobs, education, clean energy and lifesaving medical research will leave our nation weakened,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
The budget outline covered just “discretionary” spending, or programmes that must be renewed annually by Congress, for the 2018 fiscal year starting on October 1.
During the presidential campaign last year, Trump vowed that the solution to poverty was giving poor people incentives to work. But most of the proposed cuts in his budget target programmes designed to help the working poor, as well as those who are jobless, cope.
“This is a budget that pulled the rug out from working families and hurts the very people who President Trump promised to stand up for in rural America and in small towns,” said Melissa Boteach, vice-president of the Poverty to Prosperity programme at the Center for American Progress, a liberal thinktank in Washington.
The White House budget cuts will fall hardest on the rural and small town communities that Trump won, where one in three people are living paycheque to paycheque — a rate that is 24 percent higher than in urban counties, according to a new analysis by the center.               w
— Herald with Reuters, Washington Post
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