Just when I think that Trump is going to get swept away before he drains the swamp, he does something that tells me two things: He is truly serious about fixing the morass that is Washington, D.C. and he is the first president in quite some time who doesn’t seem to care about being re-elected.
For instance, his proposed budget is a pretty dramatic course change. Like all presidents who promise fiscal responsibility, he is spending a lot on the front end and slashing things later, which in Washington terms means paying lip service to fiscal responsibility and continuing to spend way more than we have.
The deficit received very little consideration from anyone during the last presidential election but interest alone is already nearly $500 billion per year and is projected to approach $1 trillion if we continue at our current pace. Of course, that doesn’t include the unfunded long-term liabilities from financially insolvent programs like Medicaid and Social Security. The bottom line is that our financial condition is horrific and getting worse.
Trump’s proposed budget calls for a $3.6 trillion cut in government spending over the next decade. Admittedly, while it would put us on a path that might actually keep us from following in the steps of Greece and the old Soviet Union, but given what we have seen in the past from Congress, President Trump’s budget will be dead on arrival. Everyone wants to cut spending as long as it is not from a program they benefit from.
Agriculture doesn’t fare well, losing about $38 billion in terms of farm supports, and new limits on crop insurance and caps for commodity payments. The old food stamp program, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), would see significant cuts as well. Additionally, user fees would be increased to the tune of the beef industry having to come up with $660 million annually to help defray the cost of USDA inspectors at meat and poultry plants.
Not surprisingly, all the interest groups have stepped forward, saying the cuts are a bad idea. Cuts are always unpopular, increases in spending are more palatable, and that is why we find ourselves in the mess we are in. Everyone intuitively knows that we can’t keep spending more, not raising enough revenue for current spending levels, and kicking the ball down the road forever. Yet, nobody wants to see their sphere reduced.
History tells us the draconian cuts will end up being reductions in proposed increases. The only hope seems to be a constitutional amendment like those passed in some states that have forced politicians to make hard decisions and live within their means. Even that might have difficulty passing.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.