COMMENT

The Trump Administration is beginning to leak (yes, that's right) information about the budget proposal it will be delivering to Congress soon.

Are you ready for the establishment-skewering, regular-people-supporting, revolutionary new plan?

According to the Washington Post's Abby Phillip and Kelsey Snell:

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"President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defence-related spending by US$54 billion while cutting virtually all other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an Administration official.

"The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.

"According to the White House, the defence budget will increase by 10 per cent. But without providing any specifics, the Administration said that most other discretionary spending programmes will be slashed to pay for it, only singling out foreign aid, one of the smallest parts of the federal budget, as a target for "large reductions" in spending."

The reference to foreign aid - a tiny portion of the budget that most Americans wrongly believe is actually a huge portion of the budget - shows that they're already trying to spin this as something different from what it actually is. It's a way of telling people, "Don't worry. These cuts won't affect you or anything you care about."

And the New York Times has a bit more detail: "Mr Trump will demand a budget with tens of billions of dollars in reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department, according to four senior Administration officials with direct knowledge of the plan. Social safety net programmes, aside from the big entitlement programmes for retirees, would also be hit hard."

This should have a familiar ring if you have any memory of what happened the last time there was a Republican in the White House. In fact, this is pretty much the standard Republican spending playbook, which goes like this:

- Increase military spending.

- Cut back the agencies that might inconvenience big business or Wall Street.

- Attack programmes that help the poor.

- Cut taxes for the wealthy.

- Try to go after Medicare and Social Security, then get skittish when the political risk becomes apparent and abandon the effort.

As we know from George W. Bush's tenure, this formula produces an explosion of economic growth, raising wages and bringing prosperity to all while reducing the deficit. Right?

There are a few things missing from the budget blueprint, but which we've got indications of elsewhere. Republicans are eager to slash Medicaid, by ending its guarantee of health coverage for the poor and transforming it into a block-grant programme that would be funded at lower levels and give states the "flexibility" to toss people off their health coverage whenever they'd rather use the money for something else.

That's supposed to be part of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which they still can't figure out how to do - and it's being complicated by the fact that a lot of Republican governors and Republican voters benefited greatly from the ACA's Medicaid expansion.

There will be some kind of huge tax cut for the wealthy (absolutely nothing is more important for Republicans), but the details of that reform are still being worked out. This budget won't yet address Social Security, which many Republicans would like simply to cut, or Medicare, which they'd like to privatise (and then cut).


If history is any guide, they'll begin talking about how they want to "strengthen" those programmes, then become utterly spooked when elderly constituents show up at the offices of their members of Congress telling them to keep those grubby hands off their beloved Social Security and Medicare.

But the overall picture is remarkably similar to what we've seen before. That infrastructure plan Trump promised doesn't seem to be there, for instance. And we know that the deficit will balloon under their plans, because we've seen that before, too - a bunch of people who call themselves "deficit hawks" are interested only in cutting the programmes they never liked in the first place and end up increasing the deficit massively to pay for their beloved tax cuts.

In fact, if you were one of those downtrodden, white, working-class voters who supposedly delivered Trump his Electoral College victory, you might be asking what happened to all that winning you were promised. Wasn't Trump supposed to be something different, not like every other Republican?

He's different all right, just not in the way those voters may have been hoping.

Because when it comes to boring policy stuff such as the federal budget, Trump winds up being just like every other Republican, whether because it's what he really wants or because he doesn't much care and other people are handling it. But those are the things that actually wind up affecting people's lives.