A window into the security-centric White House: Trump’s 2021 budget proposal

President Donald Trump proposed his 2021 budget last Monday, a $4.8 trillion plan with deep cuts into safety net programs, environmental initiatives and foreign aid that the White House found “duplicative” and “wasteful.”

While Congress is the ultimate decider of what gets funding — and already lawmakers are not a fan — the proposal provides a pulse check on what the administration plans to prioritize: right now, national security, space exploration and veterans’ affairs.

Health care

Trump wants to take almost a trillion-dollar bite out of Medicaid. The plan would reduce spending dedicated to low-income Americans in favor of health care reform, an action which would align with the president’s disapproval of the Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.) and subsequent subsidies.

Toughening eligibility for Medicaid through work requirements, asset tests and more comprehensive verification would force states to pay for more medical bills, resulting in reduced enrollment, reversed A.C.A. coverage in some states and retracted support for hospitals that serve a lot of uninsured patients. And that would mean less federal spending.

But the big news isn’t Medicaid: It’s a broken promise. Trump said he would not touch Medicare — the health care program available regardless of income — however the budget proposes tightening the program in several ways, the biggest being an opt-out option for Americans over age 65. Still, the changes wouldn’t alter Medicare programmatically.

And here comes coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) would be getting a facelift if the White House’s budget were effected, with most of the procedure removal: a 16% funding cut. The goal would be to refocus the C.D.C.’s energy on infectious diseases and epidemics, specifically opioid use, which would garner $5 million in support of extinguishing drug abuse.

Overall, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (H.H.S.) funding would dip 10%.

Environmental initiatives

Climate change who? The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) would lose 26% of its funding under Trump’s budget. Say goodbye to about 50 programs; hope you don’t like clean beaches. Or breathing.

But what the proposal doesn’t mention about climate change — like, anything at all — it makes up for in bragging about fossil fuel success. Great that those two things aren’t scientifically proven to be related (… they are).

Congress has made up for some of the White House’s previous attempts to significantly sever E.P.A. support and lawmakers have proposed ideas to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. That would be hard to do if the White House asserted its 2021 plan to cut many Department of Energy (D.O.E.) programs which don’t bolster nuclear weapons and defense development. The D.O.E. would expect an 8.1% funding cut.

Ongoing projects that require environmental review would be accelerated regardless of environmental implications (with some moving to state control) if the Army Corps of Engineers civil works program, which is in charge of water-related infrastructure, took a 22% dip from the proposed budget. And although the Department of Transportation — in charge of road, train and aviation construction — would suffer a 13% blow, the programs the president would bolster include infrastructure investments and streamlined grant proposals, many of which would face critical environmental review.

The Department of the Interior (D.O.I.), which oversees national parks, would also lose 16% of its cash flow with the new budget; the proposal stresses the D.O.I. should focus on wildfire mitigation and law enforcement on public lands.

Native support

This D.O.I. is also important because it assists Indigenous peoples: While the budget maintains it would continue the proper support that it currently provides, it would shutter the Indian Guaranteed Loan Program and parts of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Welfare Assistance Program.

Economic aid

The department that would see the biggest cut is Commerce: more than 37% chopped from the census-collecting, trade-regulating, patent-issuing conglomerate. This was largely fed from less money being poured into the 2020 census but also features the eradication of economic development opportunities, including the Economic Development Administration that provides grants and teaching programs to distressed communities. Instead, the budget proposes backing technological success, such as telecom and artificial intelligence, and outsourcing more duties to private American companies.

Similarly, the Labor Department’s funding would drop 10.5%, mostly from shedding job training programs and unearthing allegedly-improper payments. It would enforce stringent evaluations on workers to limit unemployment insurance, make union audits stricter and increase pension premium payments, ultimately raising the bar for workers seeking monetary relief.

Small businesses would also lose support if the 25% proposed decrease to the Small Business Administration is approved. Still, the budget claims that the overall cut would help entrepreneurs through reducing aid programs in favor of $43 billion in business lending.

Housing and food vouchers

A 15.2% decrease in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) would mean program elimination for rental assistance and grant-awarding initiatives, like the Choice Neighborhoods Program, which assists neighborhoods in need of public works. This would hinder Housing Choice Vouchers and force tenants receiving assistance to boost rent contributions from 30% to 35% of their income. Still, the budget claims that the plan would maintain support for all 4.6 million low-income families currently served by the H.U.D.

Another reappearing vanishing act is to make more stringent qualifications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (S.N.A.P.), the primary food assistance program for Americans in need. Already the Trump administration has restricted eligibility, including enforcing work requirements that overlook whether or not food-stamp candidates have children. Overall, it would snip S.N.A.P. funding by $180 billion in the coming decade. The budget also propels a proposal that would allow the federal government to preselect food for beneficiaries with the aim of benefiting American farmers, a so-called “Harvest Box.” This all actually comes out of the Department of Agriculture, which would expect an 8% sliver shed from its funding.

Student loan forgiveness

Drowning in student loan debt? Too bad. Trump wants to eliminate subsidized federal student loans and the public service loan forgiveness program (which cancels federal student loans for public servants — think teachers, government workers, law enforcement — after a decade of payments). It would also reduce work-study funding. This is reappearing from last year’s budget proposal, of which Congress wasn’t a fan.

Instead, the proposal details a single income loan repayment program which would raise what most people pay back from 10% to 12.5% of their income. These and other initiatives would downsize the Education Department’s funding by 7.8%.

Foreign aid

Peace out international relations. The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.A.I.D.) funding would decrease 22%, eliminating discretionary funds for unexpected overseas expenses and international food assistance programs. United Nations contributions would also be reduced across sectors by more than $950 million — unsurprising, as Trump has long complained about paying more to the international body than any other county. The funding he would rather support is American-first interests abroad, such as embassy security.

Criminal justice

Despite some aid moving toward violent crime and immigration law enforcement categories, the Department of Justice (D.O.J.) would see a 2.3% loss, mostly from eliminating criminal justice initiatives like the creation of a new prison and immigration allowances that the budget cites as ineffective and unnecessary.

National security

Modern. Lethal. Innovative. The White House’s words, not mine: Trump wants to build up the States’ arms in the Space Force, maritime and nuclear missiles, manpower, cybersecurity — you name it, he wants more of it. So that would mean an increase of $800 million to the Department of Defense (D.O.D.) for fueling military might, making a total of $705.4 billion. Parsed: $111 million to the Space Force, $20.3 billion to missile defense, $19.3 billion to battle ships, $14 billion to D.O.D. technological research and $10 billion for cybersecurity, to name a few.

Speaking of the Space Force … the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would garner a 12% funding cushion for investments into future space missions, including for a long-term U.S. presence in low orbit and drones.

The Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) would also see a 3.2% funding leg up. Why? The man wants the wall. The White House requested $2 billion to complete 82 more miles by 2021. They’ve completed 120 miles already, paid for largely by reallocating military funds. At least it’s less than the $5 billion over which the government shut down for five weeks last year.

But that wall is technically getting more than $2 billion. Additional funds would aim to hire 750 border patrol agents, more than 4,600 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and immigration court prosecutors. And despite the D.O.J. losing cash flow, the money going into the department would focus on immigration law enforcement, drug and human trafficking counterance and violent crime deterence.

So security is a top priority — that includes Trump’s personal security. Trump wants to move the Secret Service from the D.H.S. to the Treasury Department where it was housed pre-9/11. Congress likely won’t object but there has been an air of mystery floating around the costs of Trump’s protection. Regardless, the president wants to boost its funding by $100 million. Excluding that funding, the Treasury would see a 2.2% increase in the areas of foreign investment fraud detection, financial crime investigation and tax regulation.


An initiative which would likely be supported on Capitol Hill is a 14% boost in Veterans Affairs funding in an effort to mitigate suicide, opioid addiction and health issues ailing those who’ve served. However, it would heighten cost-of-living need evaluations, tightening the purse on pension payments, which is neither favored by veterans nor Congress.

Read the full budget here. Find further information on savings and reforms here or by visiting the Office of Management and Budget’s website.

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