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President Donald Trump makes remarks as Vice President Mike Pence listens as they meet with the Republican Study Committee in the Oval Office of the White House, March 17 2017. Pool/ABACA

'Trump’s budget is easy to understand he’s boosting the military, cutting everything else. Scary'

Donald Trump’s first official budget document reveals his militarisation plans at the expense of the environment and civil society, writes Julien Mercille.

THERE’S BEEN A flurry of news about Trump since he became President. Are you confused about all those Russia allegations, those claims about spying, and endless analysis about how the Donald shakes hands?

Don’t worry, you can forget all that for now and focus on what’s arguably the most important news piece so far: Trump’s budget.

The budget is important because whatever weird late-night tweet Trump sends or awkward handshake he gives, the budget is what reveals where his real priorities lie.

As the saying goes, follow the money, and you will know what someone cares or doesn’t care about.

Easy to understand 

Trump’s budget is very easy to understand: he’s boosting the military, while cutting everything else, including programmes for the arts, housing, the environment, diplomacy, communities, you name it.

To give you an idea of the Trump administration’s “We don’t give a damn” attitude, listen to Mick Mulvaney, the budget director. He said he doesn’t care about climate change, declaring: “We’re not spending money on that anymore” because “it’s a waste of your money”. Scary.

Reactions to the proposals

Lots of groups reacted with outrage when the proposed budget was released. The New York Times said that “Trump is in full tear-down mode”. The Sierra Club, an environmental group, said that “the only thing that matters in [Trump’s] America is corporate polluters’ profits and Wall Street billionaires”.

Amnesty International said it was “shameful”. The Union of Concerned Scientists declared that cutting scientific programmes is “misguided science, which will hurt our economy, kill jobs, make us less safe”.

The American Library Association observed that the budget was “counterproductive and shortsighted”. The American Federation of Teachers said that “This budget takes a meat cleaver to public education”.

And it’s not only liberals who are appalled. Many Republicans are as well because the cuts attack directly people and communities in their constituencies.

For example, one Republican Representative described the budget as “draconian, careless and counterproductive”. In other word, while Trump relied on many working class voters to elect him, he’s now betraying them.

Budget shows what Trump would like to do

Sure, the proposed budget must be approved by Congress, which will most likely resist some of the changes. Nevertheless, it gives us a very good idea of what Trump would like to do.

It also shows that the deluded analysts and journalists who keep repeating that we have to “give Trump a chance” or to “wait and see what he does” before criticising him are dead wrong.

U.S.-WASHINGTON D.C.-TRUMP-FIRST BUDGET BLUEPRINT Donald Trump unveiled the administration's first budget blueprint which seeks deep cuts across federal departments and agencies in order to fund rising defense spending. SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

The best way to understand Trump’s destructive budget is to look at it item by item. Only three areas receive more money: the military, homeland security and veterans. Everything else gets cut. Here are the details (and more details can be found in this summary):


  • Defense: + $52 billion. Includes more ships for the Navy, more money for the Air Force, Army and Marines, and buying F-35 fighters more rapidly than planned.
  • Homeland Security: + $2.8 billion. Big boosts to border and immigration enforcement.
  • Veterans Affairs: + $4.4 billion. Money to expand health services (which is a good thing).


  • Agriculture: – $4.7 billion. Includes rural development and grants for research; cuts women, infants and children nutrition assistance by $200 million.
  • Arts and Culture: – $1.0 billion. Eliminates the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, and museum and library services.
  • Commerce: – $1.4 billion. Cuts climate-change and ocean research; eliminates the Economic Development Administration, which provides grants to struggling communities.
  • Education: – $9.2 billion. Cuts programmes for teacher training and aid to low-income students.
  • Energy: – $1.7 billion. Cuts science programmes drastically.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): – $2.5 billion. This is a 31% cut to the EPA’s funding while reducing its workforce by 20%. It is the beginning of the dismantling of the EPA. Over 50 programmes would be eliminated, to combat pollution, cleaning up the Great Lakes, and science.
  • Health and Human Services: – $15.1 billion. Big cuts to health programmes.
  • Housing and Urban Development: – $6.2 billion. Cuts to public housing programmes.
  • Interior: – $1.6 billion. Cuts to national parks and historic sites maintenance.
  • Justice: – $1.1 billion. Less money for prison construction (this might actually be a good thing), but still more money for the FBI.
  • Labour: – $2.6 billion. Less money for job training programmes aimed at disadvantaged youth and seniors.
  • NASA: – $0.1 billion. Cuts education programmes and climate change science.
  • Small Businesses: – $0.1 billion. Cuts technical assistance grants.
  • State Department: – $10.9 billion. Eliminates climate change programmes, less money for UN peacekeeping, cuts cultural exchange programmes.
  • Transport: – $2.4 billion. Cuts projects and programmes for road and air transportation.
  • Treasury: – $0.5 billion. Cuts funding for financial services to neighbourhoods struggling economically.

It’s crazy, isn’t it? Trump is militarising the US and destroying civil society and the environment. It’s that simple.

Julien Mercille is an associate professor at University College Dublin. Twitter: @JulienMercille.

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