In his initial budget document released on Thursday, President Donald Trump called for huge reductions in government spending. Beyond simply handing some agencies and programs less money to work with, he wants to completely eliminate 78 programs — including the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Services Block Grant, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Legal Services Corporation, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Minority Business Development Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, United States Institute of Peace, and United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
All told, the money saved from the functions that Trump wants to eliminate comes to just under $23.6 billion, according to a ThinkProgress analysis.
That may sound like a lot of money, but it’s not even half of the increase in funding he wants to give to the military: $54 billion. The United States already spends more on defense than the next seven largest military budgets around the world combined.
The sum is also dwarfed by the size of the tax cut that Trump has proposed enacting, which would cost the government $341 billion in the first year and $6.1 trillion over a decade. Under that plan, the poorest families would get just $110 in annual tax relief, while the richest 0.1 percent of Americans would get more than $1 million in one year.
The amount of money saved by eliminating these government programs wouldn’t even be enough to pay for the construction of Trump’s border wall, the price for which has been put at $25 billion.
Several of the programs Trump wants to cancel have very small price tags and very large impacts. Trump’s decision not to spare even these high-efficiency connections between the government and its people is impossible to justify in budget terms, given their low costs. Instead, these cuts seem to represent a philosophical choice to derail things the president doesn’t believe in doing — even if they help people.
One HUD program tagged for execution generates massive private investment in housing construction, at the cost of just $35 million per year. The Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing program generates more than $20 in private investment in low-income housing for every dollar taxpayers spend. That radically efficient system lured almost $6 billion in low-income housing development spending from private sources since 2010, according to the nonprofit network Enterprise.
By contrast, Trump is forcing taxpayers to spend an estimated $3 million every time he travels to his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida. He could cancel a dozen of his tropical weekends and save more money than he does by eliminating the HUD program — and without savaging the already rocky state of affordable housing investment nationwide.
Other examples from Trump’s proposed budget cuts make even less fiscal sense. He would eliminate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation even though the self-sustaining business development organization actually returns money to the treasury every year. The Interagency Council on Homelessness would be dissolved — saving just $4 million a year in exchange for making it harder to coordinate policies and reach consensus in the fight to end homelessness — as would the $11 million federal organization that investigates chemical accidents like the deadly West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion.