U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to speak to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Plan Postpones Balanced Budget Despite Deep Spending Cuts

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump will propose a U.S. budget that wouldn’t balance for 15 years, even assuming stronger economic growth than private forecasters expect and with deep domestic spending cuts that have little chance of passing Congress.

Trump’s budget blueprint, to be released Monday, asks lawmakers to slash funding for most federal government agencies while boosting defense spending and setting aside $8.6 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a White House preview. The plan faces certain rejection by Democrats now in control of the U.S. House and will kick off a new political battle over spending priorities.

Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement the proposal “embodies fiscal responsibility” and “shows that we can return to fiscal sanity without halting our economic resurgence.”

However, Trump’s plan would prolong federal deficits, with the administration estimating it would put the U.S. on track for a balanced budget by 2034. That 15-year timeline breaks with Republican orthodoxy, as GOP lawmakers have pushed to eliminate the federal deficit within 10 years.

A major factor in the longer timeline: declining revenue from corporate income taxes. The fiscal stimulus package Trump used to help juice the economy in 2018 included large tax cuts for corporations that will add $1.9 trillion to the deficit in the decade through 2028, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Now, the White House is asking Congress to make $2.7 trillion in cuts by paring discretionary domestic spending some 5 percent below fiscal 2019 budget caps, even as the Trump administration seeks to hike spending on its national defense priorities.

It’s unlikely Congress will acquiesce. Lawmakers have previously rebuffed Trump’s calls to cut funding for federal environmental and transportation programs -- just as they ignored many of President Barack Obama’s spending priorities.

“President Trump added nearly $2 trillion to our deficits with tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, and now it appears his budget asks the American people to pay the price,” said House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat. “The Trump budget is as dangerous as it is predictable. It has no chance in the House.”

Congress has already resisted Trump’s signature push to spend more money building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, prompting a 35-day federal government shutdown that ended in January.

The president’s proposal asks for an additional $5 billion in border wall funding for the Department of Homeland Security and $3.6 billion in new military construction funds.

National Emergency

That request is in addition to the funds that Trump is hoping to allocate through executive action after declaring a national emergency in February over the situation on the border, a move likely to tee up a new battle with Congress.

The budget also calls for $3.6 billion to replace funds Trump plans to divert for border wall construction using the emergency powers, according to a senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of its release.

Overall, the White House looks to secure funding -- via this year’s budget, Trump’s emergency declaration and previous appropriations -- for 722 miles (1,162 km) of border barrier, using an estimated cost of about $25 million per mile of wall or fencing.

The White House request represents the first marker in what’s certain to be another protracted battle between the Trump administration and congressional negotiators -- particularly Democrats who hold the majority in the House.

‘Widespread Chaos’

“President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday in a joint statement. “Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.”

Trump rejected a bipartisan funding agreement in late 2018, prompting the partial government shutdown. He finally agreed to reopen the government when lawmakers provided him $1.375 billion for new border construction, and he then announced his plans for the national emergency.

The House voted Feb. 26 to block the emergency declaration, and enough Republicans have said they’ll also vote against it for it to pass in the Senate. But neither chamber appears to have the votes to override a promised presidential veto.

Opioid Programs

Trump’s budget is set to include requests to boosting funding for some domestic priorities, including programs to combat abuse of opioids and medical care for veterans. The White House said Trump was seeking more than $80 billion “to ensure our veterans receive world-class health care,” a nearly 10 percent increase from fiscal 2019 levels.

Larry Kudlow, the White House chief economic adviser, brushed aside budget deficit concerns on Sunday, arguing that markets are not overwhelmingly worried about federal spending.

“I don’t think good growth policies have to obsess, necessarily, about the budget deficits and so forth,” Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The budget document includes economic projections for the next decade, and the administration forecasts continued strong expansion. The White House will project the economy to grow at an average of 3 percent annually over the net decade, including 3.2 percent growth for 2019. The White House further predicts the economy will grow by 3.1 percent in 2020, 3 percent in 2021, and 2.8 percent in 2026.

Economists say that forecasting such trends 10 years out -- much less beyond that -- is difficult. Historically, at least one recession would likely take place in the window, causing decreased revenue and increased social spending.

The projections also are at odds with those of many private forecasters. A Bloomberg survey puts the consensus U.S. GDP forecast for 2019 at 2.5 percent, trailing off to 1.9 percent in 2020 as the impact of the 2017 Republican tax cuts fades. The International Monetary Fund’s forecast is 1.8 percent for 2020.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.