Mulvaney: ‘We Don’t Balance the Budget, But We Do Reprioritize Spending’

By Susan Jones | March 16, 2017 | 7:55am EDT

President Trump's FY '18 discretionary budget blueprint shifts money without adding to the deficit.

(  - President Trump has just unveiled his "America First" budget plan, which comes with the title, "A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again."

The discretionary budget boosts spending on the military, homeland security, veterans, and school choice by cutting spending elsewhere – the EPA, HHS, the State Department and wasteful grant programs, to name a few.

Trump’s budget comes with a message to Congress, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said early Thursday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

We’re sending a message to Congress, and the message is very, very clear. We want more money to defend the nation; more money to defend the border; more money to enforce the laws, and we want to do it without adding to the deficit this year.

We’re not balancing the budget here. All we did is take a dollar away from over here and reprioritize it over there.  But we don’t balance the budget, but we do reprioritize spending, and that’s the message to Congress.

So if they have a better way to defend the nation, to enforce the laws without adding to the deficit, we want to talk about it, but this is the president’s message.

Trump’s Fiscal 2018 budget proposes a 10 percent increase ($52 billion) in defense spending in one year; another $2 billion would go to nuclear weapons.

The Homeland Security Department would get another $2.8 billion (a 6.8 percent hike), with most of the increase ($2.6 billion) spent on Trump’s promised border wall.

The Department of Veterans Affairs gets an additional $4.4 billion, a 5.9 percent increase.

Trump wants $500 million more to spend on opioid addiction prevention and treatment; and he wants $1.4 billion more to expand school choice programs.

On the other side of the ledger, the EPA faces a $2.6 billion (31.4 percent) reduction, resulting in a loss of 3,200 jobs. The Obama administration’s clean power plant program would go away.

Health and Human Services faces a $12.6 billion (16.2 percent) cut: Trump proposes a $5.8 billion reduction in the National Institutes of Health, including the elimination of a division that focuses on global health.

The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development would lose $10 billion, a 28 percent cut. That means less foreign aid, less money for the United Nations and the World Bank.

The Labor Department loses $2.5 billion, a 20 percent cut. Some jobs training programs would be eliminated.

Trump’s plan also would eliminate $1.2 billion program that supports before and after school programs. And many independent agencies supported by tax dollars would be gone (see list below).

“Morning Joe” asked Mulvaney on Thursday what he would say to teachers who will have some of their training programs cut; or low-income families who rely on money for after-school programs.

Mulvaney said a lot of the programs to be cut “sound great” but “a lot of them simply don’t work,” he said.

"I can’t justify them to the folks who are paying the taxes. I can’t go to the auto worker in Ohio and say please give me some of your money so I can do this program over here someplace else that really isn’t helping anybody. I can ask them to pay for defense,” he added.

Mulvaney said the targeted programs either haven’t worked, can’t justify their existence, or are duplicative.  “And many of the examples you just gave, there are other programs that can do the exact same thing.”

For example, Mulvaney noted that there are more than 50 federal job-training programs. “Clearly there’s got to be some opportunity there for combination and savings.”

The budget calls for the complete elimination of funding for other independent agencies, including:  the African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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