The Slatest

Report About Trump Plan for “Dramatic” Spending Cuts Involves Some Extremely Suspect Numbers

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan on Nov. 10 in Washington, D.C.

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The big D.C. news item this morning is the Hill’s report that the Trump administration is preparing “dramatic” budget cuts that would “reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.” A trillion in cuts per year is a lot of money given that the annual federal budget is only about $3.8 trillion total! But the numbers in the Hill’s piece don’t come anywhere close to squaring with the details it gives.

Here’s how the article summarizes the planned cuts:

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

That might sound like a lot, but as anyone who’s familiar with the issue knows, the majority of federal spending goes toward the military, Social Security, and Medicare. Via

The Hill, though, doesn’t mention any proposed reductions to defense spending—and notes the following:

Trump vowed during the campaign not to cut Medicare and Social Security, a pledge that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), his pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, told lawmakers in testimony Wednesday has not changed.

Without cutting defense or entitlement spending, it’s going to be pretty much impossible—short of completely eliminating every other part of the federal government—to get to $1 trillion in cuts every year. That’s especially true given that Trump also just promised that “everybody” will have insurance under his Affordable Care Act replacement bill.

Indeed, both of the previous budget proposals that the Hill cites as models for Trump’s—one produced by the Heritage Foundation and another by the Republican Study Committee—involve cuts to entitlements. They also both eliminate Obamacare spending without replacing it.

One wonk has already estimated that the cuts described in the Hill’s piece wouldn’t even amount to 1 percent of the $10 trillion number that it throws out:

The Hill piece also includes this gem:

Republicans in the House and Senate … believe they have an opportunity to truly tackle spending after years of warnings about the rising debt.

The federal deficit decreased and even briefly disappeared during the Clinton administration, then surged dramatically while George W. Bush was president (during which time Congress was also largely controlled by Republicans), and has again gone steadily downward under Obama. (Who also famously proposed an even more significant deficit-cutting compromise plan that the GOP rejected.)

Finally, congressional Republicans have a chance to “tackle” this problem [that their party is almost entirely responsible for]!