Today, the White House released details on the president’s budget proposal, and they are a serious blow to hopes that the administration would target big spending across government.
The budget proposes a $54 billion increase to Pentagon spending, while leaving untouched major spending drivers including Social Security and Medicare. Not to worry, though, because these eye-popping increases will be made up for by a series of deep offsets to non-Defense discretionary spending.
While full details have yet to be released, programs targeted for cuts are said to include those under the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, as well as non-mandatory social welfare programs and foreign aid.
This news should be disquieting for all fiscal conservatives.
Over the next decade, mandatory spending (i.e. that spending that rarely gets voted on) will be more than 32.4 trillion — that’s nearly 65 percent of all federal spending.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spending currently makes up about half of discretionary spending — that is, what Congress regularly does take votes on. In other words, this budget will hold steady the largest portion of all federal spending and dramatically increase the largest portion of discretionary spending, while suggesting dramatic cuts to what is around 15 percent of 2017 federal outlays.
While we applaud and realize how difficult it is to cut any spending, these numbers just don’t add up.
Make no mistake: All areas of the federal budget must be open for reforms and belt-tightening. And the case can certainly be made that, thanks to the Budget Control Act, Pentagon spending has been significantly squeezed in recent years.
But strategy must drive dollars, not the other way around. Republicans especially should be wary of a budget plan that seems to do the opposite.
There are real consequences to deficits and debt out of control.
Fiscal conservatives know that Republicans often do not keep their promises to rein in big spending drivers, reform entitlements, and trim the fat.
But it is still remarkably disheartening if we see a budget that by and large does not even make these promises to begin with.
This originally appeared at reducespending.org.