USA Today: Trump Budget Cuts Bankroll New Waste

USA TODAY, March 19, 2017

Trump budget cuts bankroll new waste

Trump proposes to devote almost all of the savings from cutting domestic programs into the Pentagon.

Regardless of whether Trump can cajole Congress into imposing the cuts, Americans should welcome candor on an array of federal programs that should have been decimated or abolished long ago: 

The homeland security budget proposes to fizzle away billions of dollars on a border wall — a monument to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign that will have little or no impact on curbing illegal immigration. On the bright side, the budget favors slashing Urban Area Security Initiative grants — a howler of a program that has paid for a latrine-on-wheels in Fort Worth, Texas, sno-cone machines in Michigan, and a “Zombie Apocolypse” show at a training seminar. Also targeted for cuts is the Transportation Security Administration’s goofily-named VIPR program (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) — which dispatches TSA teams to pointlessly hassle bus and train passengers in “security theater” at its most absurd.

On the other hand, Trump proposes to devote almost all of the savings from cutting domestic programs into the Pentagon, whose budget would rise by $52 billion, roughly 10%. Since 9/11, the Defense Department has been Washington’s ultimate sacred cow — regardless of how badly U.S. military interventions abroad turned out. A Pentagon advisory panel recently documented $125 billion in bureaucratic waste; Pentagon honchos and their political allies quickly buried that report. The Pentagon Inspector General reported that the Army made $6.5 trillion in erroneous adjustments (Yes, TRILLIONS)to its general fund in 2015. At the least, the Pentagon should receive no additional money until it reveals how it spent previous windfalls.

The specter overhanging Trump’s budget is the possibility that he could jettison his campaign promises and plunge the nation more deeply into conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. If that happens, federal spending could quickly soar out of control as it did in the George W. Bush administration. What is the point of draining the swamp if all the savings are poured down other budgetary rat holes?

Trump’s budget would be better if it included more corporate welfare targets — such as farm subsidies — on the hit list. Regardless, his proposals are evoking screams of agony inside the Beltway. A Washington Post article fretted that, under Trump’s budget, “government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America.” Actually, there was an election last November and the people who did not want their lives micromanaged by federal agencies won.

James Bovard, author of Public Policy Hooligan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.


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