Coming from a working-class South Dakota town, I am very money conscious. So, like most people in this country, I find our national debt and growing deficit upsetting.
However, as a college student, I am well aware that sometimes one needs to take on debt as an investment on the future. So, looking at the upcoming budget, I want to concentrate on whether or not the things we are taking on debt for are worthy causes.
One of the biggest budgetary concerns I need to address right away is the tax cuts passed by the GOP. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “The final tax bill… provides by far the largest benefits to high-income people, and many middle- and lower-income households would end up worse off.”
A national survey of 38 economists conducted by the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets yielded a unanimous prediction that the tax cuts would increase our total debt over the next decade. Data from the Congressional Budget Office predicts these tax cuts will raise the federal deficit by “$194 billion over the 2018-2027 period” thereby increasing the debt by $1.7 trillion.
Tax cuts were at the same time that Congress allowed the historically bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to lapse out of funding. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the total cost of this program between states and the federal government was around $15 billion dollars in Fiscal Year 2016.
To sum that up: the Republican Party, in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, prioritized giving more money to the rich with no reason but ideology to expect economic benefit. At the same time, the GOP allowed a relatively inexpensive program providing poor children with health insurance to go unfunded. Maybe I’m just too liberal, but that seems deeply flawed to me.
Looking to the budget plan recently proposed by the Trump administration, the real headline-grabbing item is the president’s promised $1.5 trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. I would love to see new infrastructure spending, but calling it a $1.5 trillion-dollar plan is almost outright deceptive.
Yes, the plan is to have that amount spent overall, but Forbes reports that just over 13 percent of this is in the actual budget. The rest is supposed to come from private-sector investment and state spending, but there isn’t any detail about how this will come about.
NPR reports that the same budget cuts funding to the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency by 26 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
The federal government is too big for me to do a point-by-point analysis of every cut and increase in the budget. However, a budget is a statement of priorities as much as anything else. The priorities that have been shown both by the Trump administration budget, as well as individual decisions related to revenue and spending, reflect troubling goals. Taking on debt is not inherently bad, but the current expansion of the deficit is for all the wrong reasons.