Trump budget 'astounding document' built on 'fantasy numbers,' Dems say

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., speaks to WEYI from Capitol Hill on May 24, 2017. (SBG)

Democrats on Capitol Hill blasted President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget Wednesday, while some Republicans portrayed it as a responsible attempt to rein in the ballooning federal debt.

“I think it’s one of the most radical, un-American documents ever submitted as a budget by any White House to any Congress,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va said.

The budget released by the White House this week is titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” While increasing military spending, it includes deep cuts to social welfare programs, and Democrats say that would drastically reduce services and benefits for the poor, the elderly, and the disabled.

Connolly called the budget “an astounding document” that would “radically alter the face of America as we know it.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., was also shocked by the cuts proposed by the White House and the estimate that they will lead to 3 percent annual economic growth.

“They’re fantasy numbers they’re proposing and assuming a level of economic growth that is just not possible,” she said.

Stabenow was particularly concerned about the reduction and elimination of environmental programs, including those that directly affect the Great Lakes.

“It’s shocking to me how they could have so much disregard for the importance of protecting our waters,” she said.

According to Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the proposed budget reveals the administration’s values, and it inverts President Franklin Roosevelt’s test of progress, which focused on whether enough was being done to help those who need it.

“This is, take away from those who are struggling in order to give away the entire treasury to the richest,” he said. “That’s the Trump test of progress.”

Merkley said the budget would hurt the working class and rural Americans, two demographics that supported Trump in large numbers during his campaign.

“This is a terrible budget,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. “I’m pleased to see that many of our Republican colleagues feel the same way.”

Several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have already dismissed Trump’s proposal as doomed in Congress.

“The budget proposed by the president doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing,” Graham said at a hearing Wednesday.

Not all Republicans share his pessimism.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, applauded the president for putting forth a budget that, at least under the administration’s calculations, would eventually be balanced.

“We look forward to going through it and parsing every line item and saying, hey, is there a way to do it, but complaining about the president’s budget without offering solutions is called whining,” he said.

Davidson acknowledged that some of the cuts to government programs would be painful, but he insisted the U.S. is in a debt crisis that requires such difficult choices.

“Our country is on a path to bankruptcy and it is not compassionate to bankrupt our country,” he said.

However, Democrats say the projections of a balanced budget rely on an implausible level of sustained economic growth, and even then, the numbers may not be correct.

“There’s a two-trillion-dollar math error in the budget itself, so it doesn’t balance,” Connolly said, referring to analyses by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and others that suggest $2 trillion in added federal revenue is counted twice.

White House officials dispute that claim. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney insists economic growth will pay for tax cuts and produce additional federal revenue.

"I'm aware of the criticisms and would simply come back and say there's other places where we were probably overly conservative in our accounting," Mulvaney said at a press briefing Tuesday. "We stand by the numbers."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC’s John Harwood that the budget proposal is “a preliminary document” and will be refined.

Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., emphasized that Trump’s budget is “the beginning of the process” and not a final offer. The proposed cuts should lead Congress to assess whether these programs are effective.

“I think we ought to have that debate and figure out what works and what doesn’t work and I’m glad to see that debate started,” he said.

Strange also wants to eliminate fraud and waste in government programs.

“We want to take a compassionate approach to those programs but we also want to make sure that people aren’t taking advantage,” he said.

If Democrats have any concern that this preliminary document could ever be passed by the Republican-led Congress, they showed no hint of it Wednesday.

According to Merkley, the proposed budget is "six feet under, with a stake through its heart."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off