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Trump budget calls for deep cuts to social safety net
By Michael Mathes
Washington (AFP) May 23, 2017

The White House on Tuesday delivered to Congress a proposed budget for 2018 that would make deep cuts in programs for the poor as well as diplomacy and foreign aid, while boosting defense spending and border security.

The plan claims it would help balance the budget within 10 years -- in large part by rolling back benefits that have helped tens of millions of lower-income Americans, including those who helped send Donald Trump to the White House.

The plan, a reported $4.1 trillion for 2018, is certain to undergo major changes on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers rarely approve a president's budget wish list in its original form.

Overall, government spending would be cut by $3.6 trillion over 10 years -- with anti-poverty programs like Medicaid -- which provides health insurance to low-income families -- and food stamps bearing the brunt of the cutbacks.

It does propose a six-week family leave program for new parents, costing about $20 billion over 10 years -- a project championed by Trump's daughter and key aide Ivanka.

"You have to have compassion for folks receiving federal funds, but you also need compassion for folks paying it," White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a White House briefing with reporters.

The State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would each see their budgets cut by about a third, while defense spending would increase by more than $50 billion, or 10 percent above 2017 levels.

The proposal also adds $2.6 billion for border security and immigration enforcement -- including $1.6 billion for building a wall on the US-Mexican border, one of Trump's controversial campaign promises.

Mulvaney stressed that Trump's budget request reflected an effort to "bring some fiscal discipline" to US spending, and stressed that the 2018 budget was a pro-taxpayer affair.

- 'Plenty of money' for those in need -

Mulvaney repeatedly defended the budget against charges it drastically cuts funding for important safety net programs like Medicaid.

Trump's budget counts on the passage of the Republican health care reform bill, which in its repeal of Obamacare would slash federal support for Medicaid by $800 billion over a decade.

"We're not kicking anybody off of any program who really needs it," Mulvaney insisted.

"We have plenty of money in this country to take care of the people who need help, and we will do that. We don't have enough money to take care of everybody who doesn't need help."

- 'Simply ludicrous' -

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Medicaid cuts would end such benefits for 10 million people, and some Republicans have expressed unease about such changes.

The budget would give states flexibility to impose work requirements for those in certain anti-poverty programs. For example, states would be entitled to toughen Medicaid rules on able-bodied Americans who do not have children.

Trump's budget relies on an optimistic projection of 3.0 percent economic growth over the coming years, and assumes that the Trump tax overhaul, still in its infancy, will be deficit-neutral, Mulvaney said.

That assumption was savaged by Democrats as well as some economic experts.

"The entire Trump budget is based on unrealistic growth estimates that have already been rejected by many leading economists," warned Senate Democrat Mark Warner.

Larry Summers, a former treasury secretary and a key economic advisor under Barack Obama, blasted it as "simply ludicrous."

"The Trump administration has not yet made a significant economic pronouncement that meets a minimal standard of competence and honesty," he said in a Washington Post column.

The budget leaves Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare untouched, fulfilling a long-held campaign pledge. But it appears to violate his promise not to cut Medicaid.

Massive slide buries stretch of iconic California highway
Los Angeles (AFP) May 24, 2017
A massive rockslide has buried a stretch of California's iconic seaside Highway 1 which had already been hit by a number of road closures caused by severe winter storms, state transportation officials said Tuesday. The slide on one of America's most picturesque highways took place on Saturday morning in a remote and largely uninhabited area known as Mud Creek. The road in that section of ... read more

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