ICYMI: 8 problems with Trump’s ‘budget’ (with a side of thoughts about defense spending)

March 17th, 2017 at 7:35 am

Over at WaPo.

One thought about point #7:

7) While analysis of this budget proposal has been extensive, there is one point on which I’ve seen too little analysis: Does the Defense Department really require an extra $54 billion to meet its mission? Lawrence Korb, who has street cred in this space, emphatically says no here. “Just as the sequester is a non-strategic and unwise way to limit a budget, increased funding that is not connected to a sound defensive strategy for the demands we face today will be non-strategic, wasteful, and do more harm than good.”

For someone who’s deeply interested in fiscal policy, I don’t research/write enough about defense spending. That’s a problem, and not just because it’s about 15% of the budget, but because it gets so little scrutiny. To be clear, this is not a knee-jerk claim that we must slash spending in the sector. While we spend many multiples more than other countries (eg, Russia spends $50 billion/yr, less than Trump’s requested plus-up), knowledgeable analysts like Michael O’Hanlon think the current budget is in the right ballpark.

But my issue is that too many progressives, myself included (and this critique applies to many liberal think tanks in the fiscal biz too), fail to learn as much as we should about defense spending and thus have little to say at moments like this, when the president proposes turning ploughshares into swords on the backs of the poor and the environment.

A few other links that are worth checking out (the WaPo’s been doing great work on the many shortcomings of this budget):

–When it comes to the Meals on Wheels program, all the sudden team Trump cares about evidence. But they get it wrong, big league.

–Underscoring my point #8 re the president’s own party resisting his budget. Nice point by General Mattis in there, btw: if you cut diplomacy, you’re going to need to spend more on bullets.

–On the basic philosophy of this budget: paying for defense by cutting poor people’s programs.

–CBPP’s president, Bob Greenstein, on the budget.

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4 comments in reply to "ICYMI: 8 problems with Trump’s ‘budget’ (with a side of thoughts about defense spending)"

  1. Aaron Morrow says:

    As a liberal/progressive analyst at DoD, I offer the following hot takes:

    – That $54 billion isn’t all marked for Defense; defense spending also occurs at other departments, like Energy.
    – Regardless of his level of knowledge, O’Hanlon has a history of poor analysis and gets it wrong here. While the sequester should be removed from domestic spending, it should be kept as the new baseline for defense spending. It should be further cut as we disengage from Afghanistan and Iraq, as a lot of OCO spending has been brought into the DoD baseline.
    – Where good programs suffer for funding (AIS updates), there’s plenty of large acquisition programs that should offer up savings from reductions (F-35).

    I am unaware of any think tanks paying people do disagree with O’Hanlon from the left. Maybe they should? (I’d go with, say, Robert Farley rather than me, but that’s my opinion.)

  2. Smith says:

    Art of the deal, Democrats will be relieved when their programs are only cut 10 to 20%. Trump is showing you how it’s done. Krugman pointed this out repeatedly, that Obama would mistakenly offer reasonable compromise as an opening bid, and then get pushed further right.

  3. Fred Donaldson says:

    An easy answer to your $54 billion question: https://goo.gl/UsQLHV

  4. James E says:

    It was my understanding that much of Trump’s budget blueprint is culled from the Heritage Foundation’s budget blueprint. There was an article on the WaPo how much of the reason for the programs elimination matched Heritage’s reason verbatim.