Vice President for
Federal Fiscal Policy
The upcoming budgets from the Trump Administration and congressional Republicans are expected to contain deep cuts in domestic programs. A pair of CBPP reports show why two of the principal arguments that proponents will likely use to justify such cuts — that widespread growth in federal programs throughout the budget is the source of the nation’s fiscal problems, and that programs assisting people with low or modest incomes are burgeoning in cost — don’t bear up under scrutiny.
The first report finds that:
Recent congressional Republican budgets have called for hitting programs helping low-income families especially hard. Sixty-two percent of the $6 trillion in non-defense cuts in last year’s House Budget Committee plan were in low-income programs, even though they account for just 28 percent of non-defense program spending. These cuts would have shrunk low-income programs by more than two-fifths by the plan’s tenth year.
Such cuts are hard to justify, especially using the argument that these programs are growing substantially. As our second report finds:
To be sure, as we have documented, the nation faces long-term fiscal challenges, as debt is projected to rise faster than GDP. The large tax cuts and defense spending increases that President Trump says he favors would make the challenge even more daunting. But as policymakers debate ways to put the budget on a more sustainable path over the longer term, they should avoid misleading diagnoses implying that spending — either throughout the federal government or specifically on programs serving less fortunate Americans — is growing rapidly, which isn’t the case.