National Priorities Project Statement on Trump FY 2018 Budget Proposal

March 16, 2017

by Lindsay Koshgarian

President Trump today released a first draft (an incomplete "skinny budget") of his proposed budget for the United States in fiscal year 2018. The budget shows the president's priorities for the economy, education, national security and more.

Imagine a federal budget that took stock of the current needs and threats facing our country, and made a good faith effort to use taxpayer money to address those challenges.

This budget does not do that.

Instead, this budget adds $54 billion to the United States military budget – already larger than the military budgets for the next seven countries combined – by taking away from nearly everything else that keeps our society and economy functioning, including spending on education, jobs, and non-military investments in national security.

Americans Concerned About Terrorism, Economy, Education

According to the Pew Research Center’s annual poll on public priorities, the top three priorities for Americans at the outset of 2017 were:

  • terrorism (76%),
  • the economy (73%), and
  • education (69%).

Jobs (68%) and health care costs (66%) were close behind.

How does Trump’s budget address Americans’ most pressing concerns?

Weakening the U.S. in the Fight Against Terrorism

This budget drains resources for two of our most potent tools against terrorism: foreign aid, and diplomacy. The proposal calls for a 29% ($11 billion) cut to the State Department and foreign aid. 

These are tools that work quietly, behind the scenes, yet are seen by experts on both the right and left – 120 top military leaders among them – as indispensable in the fight against terrorism. As Defense Secretary James Mattis has said, “The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of an apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.” 

Foreign aid and the State Department are crucial elements of national security. If military spending alone could defeat terrorism, then a U.S. military budget larger than the next seven countries combined should have already done the trick.

Cutting Investment in Jobs & the Economy

By many objective measures, the U.S. economy is strong – unemployment is low, stock markets are performing well, and productivity is high.

But the big picture masks continuing economic inequality and the fact that too many Americans are struggling to get by.

In perhaps the biggest abdication of his campaign promises to help forgotten Americans, the president’s proposal cuts the labor department by 21% ($2.5 billion), including cuts to job training and placement programs for youth and seniors.

Cuts to job training and placement programs add insult to injury. Federal funds for job training have already declined precipitously over recent decades. In 1975, the U.S. spent seven times more on job training (adjusting for inflation) than it does today.

The budget also calls for a 5% cut to the Small Business Administration, which provides loans and assistance to small businesses.

Cutting Investment in Education

Education is consistently in the top three priorities Americans identify – and yet, it is only six percent of the federal discretionary budget.

Instead of prioritizing education, the president proposes a nearly 14% cut ($9 billion) to federal discretionary education spending, including proposals to eliminate programs for low-income college students, before and after school programs, and others. 

A Bad Deal for Americans

By shifting $54 billion from human needs and development to the military, this budget proposal openly pits militarism against everything other priority we have as a country – including the priorities Americans care most about.

In addition to cuts to diplomacy, foreign aid, job training and education, the budget also calls for a 16% ($13 billion) cut to the Department of Health and Human Services, including a double whammy for both health care and jobs: cuts to training for nursing and other health professions.

Here is what the Trump budget invests in:

  • Shifts $54 billion from domestic programs and international aid to the Pentagon and military --  a 10% budget increase for the Pentagon;
  • Increases Homeland Security funding by 7%; and
  • Increases nuclear weapons funding by 11%.

Here is what the Trump budget cuts:

  • State Department budget (29% cut);
  • Environmental Protection Agency (31% cut);
  • Department of Education (14% cut); 
  • Energy (besides nukes, 18% cut); 
  • Transportation (13% cut); 
  • Small Business Administration (5% cut); 
  • Housing & Urban Development (13% cut); 
  • Agriculture Department (21% cut); and
  • Health & Human Services (16% cut).

Americans deserve a budget that meets our country's real needs to strenghten the economy, create jobs, and provide oppportunity through education - a budget that also keeps us safe. 

The Trump budget falls short on every count.