Sunday, January 28, 2018

Trump budgeting yet another Don Con

Good stuff this morning from Budget Guy Stan Collender, who reminds us that not only do we not have a completed federal budget for this year, but that the Trump Administration is supposed to release the budget for 2019 in the next week.

First off, Collender notes that the last 8 months of regular spending for Fiscal Year 2018 aren't even paid for, and there is likely extra expenses that also need to be paid for when we face our next shutdown in 10 days.
Regular appropriations aren't even the only 2018 budget decisions that still need to be finalized. Whenever it's enacted, the final funding bill for the current fiscal year presumably will include a still uncertain amount (but something approaching $100 billion) for additional hurricane relief and disaster assistance. There will also be substantial spending for DACA, Trump's wall and any other border security measures included in the final package.
Looking ahead to the 2019 budget document, Collender says that OMB Director Mick Mulvaney is essentially flying blind because of there not being a 2018 budget finalized. And in addition, the GOP-run Congress won't make any funding decisions until after November's elections, which means more lame 2-month extensions, and nothing being able to pass with 50 votes because there won't be any budgets to reconcile to.
First, for the all the reasons explained above, the Trump 2019 budget will have to be revised once Congress makes the final decisions on 2018. House and Senate appropriators are far more likely to wait for the update than to begin with Mulvaney's guesswork.

Second, instead of regular appropriations, a continuing resolution at the start of 2019 -- about one month before the 2018 midterm election -- is about as certain as anything can be in Washington these days so there will be no need for Congress to rush. The 2019 budget and appropriations process will begin late because the current year's process is taking so long. That, combined with the need to get updates numbers from OMB (probably around the middle to end of March), the very limited House and Senate legislative schedule (for example, the House has week-long recesses almost every month and plans to restrict votes to only two full days most weeks it is in session) and the usual congressional preference to delay politically difficult votes until after the election, makes it hard to imagine the appropriations committees being able to move quickly or the GOP leadership wanting them to do so.

The final reason the Trump 2019 budget will be worthless is that Congress is increasingly less likely to do a fiscal 2019 budget resolution this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already hinted that might be the case, and not having to vote before the election for a budget resolution that projects trillion dollar deficits every year of the Trump administration and beyond will be the increasingly preferable option for most Republicans.
Oh, but those trillion-dollar deficits are going to happen, and that's going to be a problem because Trump also wants to claim he is going to expand infrastructure spending in that budget. But there's no money around to do so, so what does Politico report the Trump Administration wants to do? Make the states, local governments and corporations pay for it.
Instead of the grand, New Deal-style public works program that Trump's eye-popping price tag implies, Democratic lawmakers and mayors fear the plan would set up a vicious, zero-sum scramble for a relatively meager amount of federal cash — while forcing cities and states to scrounge up more of their own money, bringing a surge of privately financed toll roads, and shredding regulations in the name of building projects faster.

The federal share of the decade-long program would be $200 billion, a sum Trump himself concedes is "not a large amount." The White House contends it would lure a far larger pool of state, local and private money off the sidelines, steering as much as $1.8 trillion to needs as diverse as highways, rural broadband service, drinking water systems and veterans hospitals. (Maybe even commercial spaceflight, one recently leaked draft suggests.)

The administration isn't expected to issue full details for two to four weeks. But already, the details that have emerged are unnerving some key infrastructure supporters in Congress, who say it's unrealistic to propose such a mammoth program without money to pay for it. They also note that Trump's budget proposals have called for cutting existing infrastructure programs at the Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“I think we’re down to minus about $200 billion, because I don’t think they have enough money to fund the current program, let alone anything on top of it,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who recently sat in on a meeting with lawmakers and administration officials on the plan. “I don’t see any money from what I’ve seen so far at all. Zero. Not $200 billion, certainly not a trillion.”
So when Trump campaigned on $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending, he wasn't mentioning that only $200 billion would be from the Feds, and that you'd be looking at either higher taxes or budget cuts in your own community. Or more toll roads with corporations jacking up the price to make profits. What a deal!

Actually, what a scam, and what a bunch of empty garbage from the White House. But much like we've seen in Wisconsin, what do you expect when you have a con man in charge of the government?

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