President Trump recently laid out his budget proposal, and while it isn’t the final version that will be passed with Congress set to propose its own proposal, looking at Trump’s proposal is a good way of evaluating what issues he prioritizes and see how that aligns with his campaign focuses.
The most notable part of Trump’s budget is his $54 billion increase in military spending, a 10 percent increase to what would be $603 billion in military spending. Where there is increase in the military budget, there are cuts in other agencies, among which include the Environmental Protection Agency, now led by a man who sued it 13 times, the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department, and foreign aid spending. Essentially, there’s going to be a lot of resources towards a variety of different causes, from clean air and water protection to international development, being diverted for “public safety and national security”, as Trump says. In a speech about the budget proposal’s focus on military spending increases, Trump cited the importance for us to “start winning wars again”, and has indicated his belief that the United States has a “depleted military”. These statements indicate that Trump does not appear to have a proper grasp of the situation of America’s military and recent international relations history, and thus has proposed a budget that has the wrong priorities on the direction of the country.
America’s most recent war history includes the War in Afghanistan, which is still ongoing, and the War in Iraq, a war that has had a deep political toll on Hillary Clinton during her two respective runs for President in 2008 and 2016. The Iraq War certainly was not a success for the United States due to the fact that our objective was to neutralize the threat of Saddam Hussein having WMDs, a threat that was ultimately misguided, and due to the long-term consequences we left due to our destabilization of the region. However, our troops toppled Hussein within 3 weeks of invading the region, indicating that lack of military prowess WASN’T why Iraq was ultimately seen as a “lost” war. However, Trump’s rhetoric and budget proposal indicates he either does not recognize this distinction, or is simply using amplifying rhetoric to appeal to the public about our military’s supposed vulnerability.
The United States already spends almost 3 times as much on military as the 2nd-highest military spender, China.
Implying that this amount of spending isn’t more than adequate enough to have far and away the strongest military in the world would suggest incredible bloat on the part of the military, in which case shouldn’t the Trump administration evaluate this supposed bloatedness and make necessary cuts accordingly to maximize our effectiveness to spending ratio on military while also being able to spend on other projects like environmental protections, technological research, and education.
If Trump believes that our conduction of foreign policy in recent years has been a failure, perhaps it has been because our leaders have not approached international situations in the right way, not because our military itself is in poor condition to combat challenges and threats abroad.
Trump’s budget proposal has been stated to not be the full version, with plans on infrastructure spending still to be released, but the Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney calls this an “‘An America First’ budget”. Yet, it’s important to consider the magnitude of $54 billion being put into the military as part of the strategy of implementing this ‘America First’ agenda. As we know, there is an opportunity cost for everything, so what could we have diverted this $54 billion to instead to improve the situation in America? We already know that environmental causes have been direct victims of this budget rebalancing, with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) funding being cut, which means the agency’s work in using satellite service to gather important climate data will be slashed, thus preventing our capability of doing further comprehensive research on a huge threat to not just American citizens, but the planet as a whole.
Along with the agencies that are directly facing costs for this budget, there are also hypothetical areas that we could have potentially used this $54 billion on. During his campaign, Bernie Sanders had a tuition-free college plan that was set to cost $75 billion. His plan was to raise taxes on financial speculation to gather the money to pay for this plan, but Trump’s $54 billion military increase was done without increases in taxes, but simple redistribution of resources. The money that Trump is proposing to move to add to the military alone is almost enough to fund tuition-free college spending, which would be an investment that would lead to a more educated workforce, and thus, a likely more innovative and productive economy.
Another agency that we could invest in could be NASA, not just for advancements in space exploration, but also for the potential to develop innovative new technology that could revolutionize productivity in a variety of different industries, as has been done already. NASA currently has a $19.5 billion budget, but we might not even be able to imagine what it is capable of doing for our society’s technological ability if we were to give the agency a boost in its budget.
These are only a few ideas I have, but there are many more important causes that could have reap great benefits for many Americans if we were to divert more attention to them in the form of public funding and investment. Trump has addressed some of these issues throughout his campaign, so if he wants to put “America First”, is the further bloating of an already powerful military the maximization of resources to provide Americans with more healthy and prosperous lives?