In his budget proposal released Monday, President Donald Trump proposed increasing federal funding for the military by $54 billion at the expense of important domestic and international programs and agencies. This budget, if approved by Congress, would severely hurt American citizens. The proposal itself speaks volumes about the administration’s priorities.
Trump confirmed Tuesday that he plans to gut the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by demanding cuts of at least 37 percent to both agencies’ budgets. These cuts send a strong message that Trump doesn’t consider foreign relations to be important, as reducing the State Department’s budget would drastically reduce the capability of the government to meaningfully engage in foreign and diplomatic relations. An increase in military funding and decrease in funding for diplomatic matters could hurt American trade prospects and potentially lead to arms races with nations like Russia and China.
Another facet of Trump’s plan is a steep decrease in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which currently comprises 0.01 percent of the federal budget. The CPB brings educational programming and news to the public through its subsidiaries PBS and NPR. The amount of money that the federal government allocates to the CPB is already tiny compared to the overall national budget. The CPB does a fantastic job of bringing quality educational programming to communities that might not otherwise have access to it. People who might not be able to afford cable or internet connections can still receive public broadcasting for free. Reducing funding for organizations like CPB leads to a public that is less likely to be educated about the news that they are consuming.
Likewise, the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities is expected to sustain cuts, even though it makes up only 0.006 percent of the overall federal budget. The NEA supports 16,000 communities in every congressional district in the country and is the only source of funding, public or private, that provides equal access to the arts nationwide. Also, 40 percent of NEA activities occur in high-poverty areas, with 36 percent of grants assisting organizations that help marginalized populations such as disabled people and veterans. Without NEA funding, many of the programs that the organization supports would disappear. Many underfunded public school districts that have already cut art classes would be unable to provide students with any outlet for artistic expression or education.
The Environmental Protection Agency would also be significantly impacted if the current incarnation of Trump’s budget is approved. Trump is proposing to reduce the agency’s budget of $8.1 billion by $2 billion — a 24 percent cut. Like the NEA and the CPB, the EPA makes up only a tiny portion of the $3 trillion annual federal budget but faces some of the steepest cuts.
Without the research pioneered and data collected by the EPA, the public will be left in the dark about issues of climate change and environmental deterioration. Trump’s plan to reduce EPA funding will greatly decrease research on the environment, which is desperately needed as the threat of climate change mounts. Cuts to this agency will immediately result in dirtier water and air, particularly in poor communities that do not have the resources to fight polluters on their own.
Trump is supposedly making cuts to these agencies to bolster an underfunded military. But in 2015 alone, the U.S. spent $601 billion on its military budget — more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined. The current administration should focus on reducing defense spending, not increasing it. Additionally, it is using this spending hike to justify cuts to agencies that keep American citizens healthy, educated, and engaged, even though these programs’ budgets barely scratch the surface of the military bonus. This should signal to anyone still in doubt that Trump’s administration is teetering on the edge of fascism, cutting agencies that keep the public healthy and informed and favoring military prowess to diplomacy. In its budgetary process, Congress will now reveal whether its loyalty lies with a corrupt administration or with the American people.