There’s Not an Ounce of Populism in the Republican Budget

Yesterday the House passed their FY2018 budget resolution by the slimmest of margins. Eighteen Republicans joined all of the Democrats in voting against it, making the final tally 219-206. The main purpose of the budget is to set the rules for Republicans to use the reconciliation process in the Senate to pass their tax cuts, requiring only 51 votes instead of 60. The marker that this budget sets is that the tax cuts can add up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.

Recently I wrote that Republicans have three options for dealing with the fact that their tax cuts will ratchet up the deficit.

  1. Close the loopholes that individuals and businesses use to lower their taxes,
  2. Reduce spending to offset lower revenue, or
  3. Claim that deficits don’t matter.

I noted that Republicans are already going all wobbly on #1, while the Trump administration is going all-in on #3. When it comes to spending cuts, the budget resolution sets targets rather than identify specifics, but here is what 219 Republicans just voted for:

The plan…calls for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, promising to slash Medicaid by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years, cutting other health care costs, and forcing huge cuts to domestic programs funded in future years by Congress.

Senate Republicans haven’t voted on a budget resolution yet. But here is what the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities is reporting on their plans:

The budget calls for $4.1 trillion of cuts in entitlement programs over the decade.  This includes a cut of $1.8 trillion in health entitlement programs, including $473 billion in Medicare and $1.3 trillion primarily in Medicaid and subsidies to make coverage affordable through the ACA marketplaces.  The budget resolution also proposes $653 billion in cuts to income security programs, a large share of which includes basic assistance to struggling families.

The budget calls for $800 billion in cuts over the decade to non-defense discretionary spending, which supports a broad array of public services and investments.

None of this should come as a surprise. As has always been the case, Republicans want to give huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, while slashing entitlement programs and gutting the safety net. The only thing that’s different now is that the Republican president ran as a so-called “populist” and promised to protect Medicare and Medicaid. Obviously that part of the agenda has been discarded and we’re simply left with “more of the same” from Republicans—with cover being provided by fear-mongering to assuage the nativist base. As I’ve been saying, “everything old is new again.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.