President Trump called last night for “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” He has proposed increasing the military budget by $54 billion—a proposal that would require great sacrifice from working people in the form of cuts to vital health care, education and environmental services. What he should be talking about is reducing the defense budget by $125 billion.
Where does the $125 billion figure come from? It turns out it’s from the Pentagon. The defense budget of roughly $600 billion is one of the largest components of the federal budget. Last year, the Washington Post obtained a leaked Pentagon report revealing that the defense department could save $125 billion over five years without laying off military or civilian personnel—in other words, without compromising America’s safety. The savings could be obtained by staff attrition, a reduction in the use of contractors, and better use of technology. President Trump should be talking about how he will reduce the defense budget, not increase it.
America’s military is the largest and most powerful in the world by far. It is silly for Trump to claim that it is “depleted.” At a time when the United States is not engaged in a major conventional war, there is no rational reason for increasing the defense budget. In fact, the Pentagon report indicates that we should be thinking about reducing the defense budget and channeling those funds to help average Americans. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is putting the wants of billionaires over the needs of average Americans.
There are many ways $125 billion could be used to serve America’s working people. The Affordable Care Act has increased the number of Americans with health insurance by about 20 million—in blue states and red states—and it has reduced the number of Americans struggling with medical bills. One way it can be improved is by increasing the subsidies for moderate-income individuals purchasing plans on the exchanges. Defense savings would be put to good use strengthening the Affordable Care Act.
Going to college today for too many Americans means taking on a large amount of debt. This debt makes it more difficult for low- and moderate-income individuals to complete college. This debt also reduces the economic benefit of going to college for these individuals. $125 billion could be used to help to return the country to the time when a college degree did not come attached to a large amount of debt. These are just a couple of options for Trump if his priorities were to help working people in America as opposed to helping increase the profits of the defense industry.
Trump’s priorities in his first month have been to make the very rich even richer. One of the first bills that President Trump signed into law removed the requirement that oil and mining companies disclose their foreign payments. This rule was proposed by the former Republican Senator Richard Lugar to prevent bribery and corruption in foreign governments. By removing this rule many believe that Trump is making America less safe. Corrupt foreign governments produce the anger, resentments, and revolts that can lead to terrorism against the United States. Bribes, however, can increase the profits of oil and mining companies.
The Trump administration is working to block the fiduciary rule that would prevent consumers from being exploited by financial advisors. AARP is opposed to this move by the administration, because it knows that the America people are losing $17 billion a year because of bad financial advice. If Trump blocks this rule, it would mean bigger profits for Wall Street and more insecure retirements for Main Street.
While it would be a good idea for Trump to cut the defense budget and put that money to help more average Americans afford health insurance, he instead favors repealing Obamacare which would produce a big tax break for the wealthy. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would “generate large tax cuts for the highest-income Americans, drug and insurance companies, and would-be tax avoiders — and also generate large tax increases for millions of moderate- and middle-income families.” According to their analysis, the 400 richest taxpayers combined would receive a tax cut of $2.8 billion a year. The richest 1 percent of Americans will become much richer if Trump’s agenda succeeds. The poorest will be hurt badly.
President Trump plans to increase military spending, cut taxes for the rich, repeal Obamacare (another tax cut for the rich), and protect Social Security and Medicare. These goals can only be achieved by hurting low- and moderate-income Americans. Last night, Trump spoke eloquently about a future America where we have developed new cures to illnesses which plague us, where millions are lifted out of poverty, and where all Americans prosper and grow. His proposed budget, however, works against all of these goals. His plan will require cuts to programs which help the poor rise out of poverty such as Head Start, aid for schools, job training programs, and Pell Grants which help low-income students pay for college. His cuts will lower the numbers of Americans who can go to college and become scientists who cure diseases. His cuts will reduce the available funds for medical research. His cuts will make it much more difficult for average Americans to prosper. Despite his own rhetoric, Trump’s agenda makes it glaringly clear he is no working class hero.