Trump’s budget: major slashes to social programs but $1.6bn for the wall

Millions of people stand to lose Medicaid access, alongside cuts to welfare and food stamps, under a proposed budget that still has numerous hurdles to jump

Donald Trump will embrace hardline right-wing economics on Tuesday with a budget that proposes swingeing cuts to social safety net programmes while allocating $1.6bn to a border wall.

Millions of people would lose access to Medicaid, the government insurance programme for the poorest and many disabled Americans. Food stamps for people on low incomes would be cut over the next 10 years under the White House plan and the families of undocumented workers would be frozen out of key tax breaks.

We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programmes or the number of people on those programmes, budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters. Were going to measure compassion and success by the number of people we help get off of those programmes to get back in charge of their own lives. Were not going to measure our success by how much money we spend but by how many people we actually help.

The Trump blueprint is unlikely to become law because it will face opposition from both moderate Republicans and Democrats worried about its social impact and from fiscal conservatives who fear it will increase the deficit.

Chuck Schumer, Democratic minority leader in the Senate, condemned the proposed cuts to Medicaid. This would pull the rug out from so many Americans who need help: those suffering from opioid and heroin addiction, people in nursing homes and their families who care for them, the elderly, the disabled, and children, he said on the Senate floor.
Medicaid helps not only the poor but increasingly the middle class, as well as 1.75m veterans, Schumer added. Heres what candidate Trump said when he campaigned: Im not going to cut social security like every other Republican and Im not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. He promised he would help take care of those suffering from opioid addiction. If it cuts Medicaid, hes breaking that promise right in half.

Economic experts were also quick to dismiss Mulvaneys claims that Trumps tax plans and budget would boost economic growth to 3%, balancing the federal budget within a decade.

Although Trump is an unconventional president, the budget shares much with the conservative orthodoxy of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It is entitled A New Foundation for American Greatness and Mulvaney said if he had a subtitle it would be, The taxpayer first budget.

Budget
Budget director Mick Mulvaney. We need everybody to pull in the same direction. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Cuts to Medicaid over the next decade exceed even the more than the $800bn reductions contained in a health bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The president also aims to slash welfare by $274bn over a decade, including $193bn on food stamps, driving millions of people off the programme. This would be several times bigger than cuts attempted by House Republicans in the past. The number of people claiming food stamps spiked to 47m people at the height of the 2007-08 recession and had not come down as expected, still totalling 44m people, Mulvaney said, despite near full employment in the US.

Some $72bn over 10 years would come from social securitys disability insurance programme, including $50bn in savings which would be achieved by helping recipients get off the programme and find a job.

Mulvaney continued: If youre on food stamps and youre able bodied, we need you to go to work. If youre on disability insurance and youre not supposed to be, if youre not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.

He added: Theres a dignity to work and theres a necessity to work to help the country and succeed and we need everybody to pull in the same direction.

The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Credit would be limited to those who are authorised to work in the US. They would be required to show proof of a social security number a move that would have a negative impact on children who are US citizens but whose parents are undocumented.

I could ask you for your money I think, in good faith and good conscience, and say, Look, I need to take some of your money and give it to this family, who deserves the Child Tax Credit, but I cant do it to give the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is designed to help folks who work, to give it somebody whos in the country and working illegally. Its just not fair. Its not right when you look at it through the perspective of the people paying the taxes.

Trump would also reduce federal employee pensions and farm subsidies while keeping campaign pledges to leave core Medicare and social security benefits for the elderly untouched.

He also promised a groundbreaking proposal to provide six weeks of paid family leave to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents, championed by Trumps daughter, Ivanka, and costing $25bn over 10 years.

Mulvaney confirmed that the budget plan defunds Planned Parenthood, on the premise that the American Health Care Act will become law, and winds down the support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which feeds the money to outlets such as the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.

The blueprint also shaves 31.4% off funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and 29.1% off that for the state department and other international programmes.

The cuts to domestic spending would be redirected to the US military, law enforcement and supporting veterans. It allocates $2.6bn to border security, including $1.6bn for the bricks and mortar construction of a wall on the Mexican border, with the remaining $1m allotted to technology and infrastructure.

But the plan a wish list to fund the Trump agenda faces numerous hurdles. The healthcare bill is likely to undergo significant changes in the Senate while a rewrite of the tax code only has a broad outline so far. It also makes assumptions about growth.

People
People protest the Trump administrations bid to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Photograph: David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images

Mulvaney said Trumps package of spending cuts and tax breaks would boost the USs economys growth rate to 3% over the next decade, a considerable increase from the 1.9% forecast under current policy by the Congressional Budget Office.

The director, due to testify to the House and Senate this week, said: I think what Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3% economic growth in this country again. I think its sad that the previous administration was willing to admit that we couldnt get better than 1.9% growth over the next 10 years … That assumes a pessimism about America, about the economy, about its people, about its culture that were simply refusing to accept. We believe that we can get to 3% growth.

But economists were skeptical of the claim. Gus Faucher, PNC Financial Services chief economist said US productivity growth had averaged 1.75% over the last 45 years and that the period between the late 1990s and early 2000s when growth topped 3% was the exception. Its asking a lot to expect the exception not the rule, said Faucher.

Marc Goldwein, head of policy at non-partisan thinktank Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the budgets numbers did not add up. He said Mulvaneys promise of returning to the 3% growth rates were unrealistic at best.

We are not bringing the 90s back, he said. Three percent was normal then because the baby boomers were in their prime and we had a tech boom. Now baby boomers are aging out of the workforce and the tech booms impact has fizzled, Trumps budget would likely add decimal points not percentage points to US growth, he said.

This is like pretending you have won the lottery when all you have is a handful of scratch cards, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/22/donald-trump-budget-proposal-2018-social-care-border-wall

Trump’s alleged boast to Russians could wreck the trust of America’s allies

The vital intelligence-sharing alliances could see permanent damage if it proves true that Trump shared highly classified information at a recent meeting

Donald Trumps Oval Office boasting to the Russians, if confirmed, could wreak its deepest and most enduring damage on vital intelligence-sharing by US allies.

A similar erosion of trust in the presidents loyalties and competence appeared to have accelerated among Trumps political allies in Washington. As the White House fought back hard against the Washington Post report, which was confirmed on Tuesday night by several other US news organisations, it was unclear how far his support from the Republican establishment essential to his survival as president had been weakened.

In the world of intelligence-sharing among nations, however, any semblance of doubt can be corrosive and irrevocable. Even before this latest indiscretion, there had been rumblings of concern from the CIAs partner agencies abroad, uneasy about the Trump campaigns seemingly cosy relation with Moscow, reports of possible collusion in the 2016 election campaign, and Trumps own disdain for the US intelligence community. He frequently appeared to give more credence to conspiracy sites and the Kremlin that the intelligence briefings he received before taking office.

During the transition, many allies voiced concern Trump team might share intel with Moscow. Todays news will compound that concern, Colin Kahl, a senior official in the Obama administrations national security council (NSC), said in a tweet.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/15/donald-trump-russia-classified-information-impact-allies

Bernie Sanders: Trump was right, Australian healthcare is better

Sanders also says Senate should use Australian system as model while crafting an alternative to Republicans replacement for Obamacare

Bernie Sanders has declared President Donald Trump was right to say Australia has better healthcare than the US.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, said the US Senate should use the Australian system as a model while crafting an alternative to the Republican healthcare legislation that Trump endorses.

President Trump is right. The Australian healthcare system provides healthcare to all of its people at a fraction of the cost than we do, Sanders commented on Twitter.

The tweet was accompanied by a short video that set out the virtues of Australias universal healthcare system, saying it guarantees better service to all Australians at about half the cost of US healthcare. The video also notes that Australians can expect to live longer than Americans on average.

Sanderss tweet came two days after Trump told the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Trumbull in New York: You have better healthcare than we do.

The presidents comment raised eyebrows, coming just after the US House of Representatives had approved a Trump-backed bill that would overturn much of former President Barack Obamas signature healthcare law and move the US system further away from universal coverage.

The White House later said Trump was simply being nice to an ally and did not think the United States should adopt Australias healthcare approach.

The healthcare legislation that Trump endorses would pare back insurance protections for the sick and, according to nonpartisan congressional researchers, would lead to 24 million more Americans being without health coverage by 2026.
But the bills approval in the House on Thursday sent the legislation to the Senate, where it has little support.

We will take this pathetic healthcare bill, throw it in the garbage can and do something that will work for ordinary Americans instead, Sanders said in a second tweet on Saturday.

A Vermont independent, Sanders has become more influential in the Senate since 2016, when he took his long-shot presidential bid and turned it into a political movement against inequality.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/07/bernie-sanders-trump-was-right-australian-healthcare-is-better

Late-night hosts on Trump’s Russia contact: ‘Under the shirt, over the constitution’

Comics, including Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert, took aim at Republican healthcare confusion and meetings with the Russian ambassador

Late-night TV hosts discussed Republican disarray and continuing reports of meetings between Trumps team and Russian officials, saying such contact was strictly under the shirt and over the constitution.

On Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, the comic took aim at the Republicans newly released alternative to Obamacare. On the list of terrible Bills, this one ranks right between Cosby and OReilly, she joked, adding: Cosby, of course, ranks No 1 because hes the only Bill that provides free medication whether you want it or not.

She also noted the positive reaction of pundits to Trumps address to a joint session of Congress last week, saying they rained golden compliments down on him in the warmest shower hes ever had outside of Moscow.

Bee also ridiculed rightwing media claims that Barack Obama had attempted a silent coup against Trump. Just one of those classic coups where a president uses the might of the government to spy on an opponent and then doesnt release any of the information he found, lets the other guy win and then isnt president any more, she scoffed.

Trumps staff members seem to be afraid to challenge him on basic facts, she worried, treating him like a dangerously strong show chimp that you have to bribe with Diet Pepsi so he wont tear your face off.

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert said the Republicans lengthy delay in releasing their alternative to Obamacare made them the George RR Martin of healthcare, adding that just like in Game of Thrones, a lot of your favourite characters are going to die without warning.

Colbert noted that Trump had urged Republican congressmen to support the new plan to avoid an electoral bloodbath in 2018. Which would be terrible, because their healthcare plan does not cover bloodbath, he joked.

Colbert then turned to reports that at least five members of Trumps 2016 campaign team had made contact with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during last years election. But they insist that contact was strictly under the shirt, over the constitution, he said.

Trump plans to pay for his immigration program by cutting funding to the coast guard as well airport and rail security, the comic told viewers. Great, so were fine as long as nobody tries to get into America by land, sea or air, he said.

He also questioned plans to carry out more invasive physical patdowns at airports More invasive? Did they find a new hole? before reminding airplane travelers to make sure you have your ticket, your photo ID and your safe word. But there could be a silver lining for people about to lose their healthcare, Colbert suggested, as they can visit an airport to get a free prostate exam.

Meanwhile, on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the host noted that Trump had devoted an hour to a private Oval Office meeting with the owner of the celebrity gossip site TMZ. What could those two possibly need to talk about for an hour? Is there a terrorist plot against Taylor Swift we need to know about?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/mar/09/late-night-tv-hosts-trump-russia-samantha-bee