Economists and Democrats have already panned the budget as a document that benefits the wealthy
The budget assumes that the American economy will begin growing at 3% each year
Donald Trump’s top budget adviser defended the sweeping cuts proposed to social, foreign aid and environmental programs in the President’s budget on Tuesday, arguing that the White House could no longer ask taxpayers for money to fund programs they believe to be inefficient.
Economists and Democrats have already panned the budget as a document that benefits the wealthy and cuts services from the poor.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget chief, rejected that idea on Tuesday.
“We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but the number of people we help get off of those programs,” he said, arguing that it is actually compassionate to cut government spending on inefficient programs.
The budget, which is more a statement of policy than an actual guiding document because of its likelihood to get passed on Capitol Hill, does signal how Trump views government. With its proposed substantial cuts to anti-poverty and social safety net programs, the budget plan offers Americans a substantially different view on government as the President tries to make good on promises he made during the 2016 campaign.
In order to work, though, the budget assumes that the American economy will begin growing at 3% each year, a lofty assumption that many economists have ridiculed.
Mulvaney said Tuesday that “sustained, 3% economic growth” is the foundation of Trump-enomics that everything the administration does is based on.
“Everything that we do in this administration, every single time I am called into the Oval Office … the focus is sustained 3% economic growth,” he said, arguing that the administration “reject(s) that pessimism” that says the economy can’t grow that much each year.
Political problem for GOP
The budget is also a political pothole for Republicans – and a weapon for Democrats, who will undoubtedly pester Republicans with its symbolic, yet significant, cuts to popular programs like Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Republicans have already signaled, seemingly in a way to cut off focus on Trump’s budget, that the document will undoubtedly be changed.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said Monday that Trump’s budget was “dead on arrival” when it gets to Congress.
“All POTUS budgets are,” he tweeted.
“The President’s budget request is always subject to significant revision by Congress, and this budget will be no exception,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican. “Throughout my time in the Senate, I have never seen a President’s budget make it through Congress unchanged.”
But Democrats will still look to pin the document on their Republican colleagues.
“The Trump budget takes a sledgehammer to the middle class and the working poor, lavishes tax breaks on the wealthy and imagines all of the deficit problems away with fantasy math,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
Border wall spending, Social Security cuts
Mulvaney announced Tuesday that the document also funds initial plans for Trump’s long-promised border wall between the United States and Mexico. According to the budget chief, the spending plan requests $2.6 billion in 2018 to build the wall, including funding for “brick and mortar” that will actually get into the wall.
The President had previously requested $1.5 billion in 2017 wall funding.
But the biggest changes in the proposed budget come in changes to the social safety net.
The budget proposes $193 billion over 10 years in cuts to food stamps, $143 billion in 10 years from student loan programs and at least $600 billion over the same time frame from Medicaid.
Trump also slashes Social Security Disability Insurance, a core program to help people who are physically unable to work, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, a key welfare program.
When asked if people who get Social Security Disability Insurance will receive less as a result of the budget, Mulvaney said, “I hope so.”
He later said that he meant people who should not be on the program.
“We are not kicking anyone off of any program who really needs it,” he said. “We have plenty of money in this country to take care of the people who need help. And we will do that.”
Major cuts to EPA and climate spending
Trump’s proposed budget is an attempt to make good on campaign promises the businessman-turned-politician made throughout 2016, when he fired up crowds by pledging to cut government waste, remake the way government interacts with Americans and cut politically unpopular programs.
Among those key promises was to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and Trump’s proposed budget attempts to do just that by slashing the agency’s budget by 31% in 2018 to $5.65 billion.
Mulvaney said earlier this year that funding EPA programs was a “a waste of your money,” but that “core functions of the EPA can be satisfied with this budget.”
Trump has long said he was suspicious of climate change. He has called it a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese multiple times, although he has seemingly softened that stance in recent months.
The budget chief argued that President Barack Obama’s administration spent too much on climate change programs and that the 2018 proposed cuts are an attempt to get back to normalcy.
“The pendulum went too far to one side, where we were spending too much of your money on climate change and not really efficiently,” Mulvaney said said. “Does it mean we are anti-science? Absolutely not. We are simply trying to get things back in order.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.