Trump Administration Budget Resets Priorities

The Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) released the Trump Administration 2018 Budget Plan (“America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again“). The Plan focuses on “reprioritiz[ing] Federal spending so that it advances the safety and security of the American people.”

The Budget Plan does not specify how much money would be allocated to independent agencies such as the SEC and the CFTC. With regard to the U.S. Treasury Department, the planned budget prioritizes (i) preserving the operations of the IRS that are intended to prevent fraud, (ii) reducing spending on “paper-based” reviews, (iii) strengthening cybersecurity, and (iv) eliminating funding for community development financial institutions. Overall, there are dramatic cuts in spending which would reduce the Federal workforce.

The Budget Plan also emphasizes “three significant steps” the Trump administration has already taken to eliminate “unnecessary and wasteful regulations,” including (i) the January 20, 2017 “Regulatory Freeze” memorandum (see previous coverage), (ii) the “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” Executive Order (see previous coverage) and (iii) the “Enforcing Regulatory Reform Agenda” Executive Order (see previous coverage).

Lofchie Comment: Taken as a whole, the budget reflects significant decision-making and policy choices, as opposed to incrementalism. It is a budget created by a business person who is deciding that certain priorities are important (and should get more money) and that other activities are just not working (and so should be eliminated, as opposed to growing at a rate slower than inflation).

While the budget moves massive amounts of planned government spending, it holds the total amount of government spending constant. Psychologically, this emphasizes the fact that making a budget is about choices; deciding where money is to be spent is of one piece with deciding where money should not be spent (money not being unlimited). This flatline in overall expenditure now puts the burden on opponents of the planned budget to be explicit as to their priorities: if they want to increase spending on one activity, then they must also declare where they wish to decrease spending. Now let the (thoughtful, high-minded, respectful) debate about spending priorities begin.

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