Seriously? Yes! Literally? No.

Soon after the November 2016 elections, a pundit said that President Trump’s supporters took him seriously but not literally. The mistake his opponents made was taking him literally but not seriously.

If they were not taking him seriously before he released his fiscal 2018 budget yesterday, they are now. The all-out fiscal assault on elderly, economically disadvantaged, ailing, and other vulnerable people amounts to a scorched earth policy.The fact that the cuts are helping to pay for walls–both physical and legal–intended to diminish the richness of American society is equal parts delusion and self-destruction. The intended shift from diplomacy in international relations to military aggression is pouring fuel on a world full of fires. The erasure of key tools of justice at home and abroad is, simply, un-American. And the idea that this is a strategy that will make America “great” would literally be unworthy of discussion if you did not take Donald Trump seriously.

Take him seriously.

Politically this budget sets a bar so low that the Republican Congress can counter them with spending increases that appear to make Lyndon Johnson seem stingy. The only thing in their way is the enmity of the far right wing of their own party, the wing that flaps when Donald Trump tweets.

Congressional leaders are making it clear that they will not take the Trump budget literally. Most of the proposed spending cuts will not happen the way the White House wants, but most of the areas the White House targets will get cut. Meals on Wheels will survive. CDBG will survive. The CDFI Fund will end up with substantially more funding for 2018 than Trump budgeted, I believe, but far less than the $250 million that the CDFI industry is requesting.

The CDFI Fund will end up with substantially more funding for 2018 than Trump budgeted, I believe, but far less than the $250 million that the CDFI industry is demanding.

In fact, the Trump budget is a gift to Congressional Republicans, who now have a way to separate themselves from President Trump and his distractions. It shifts the focus, at least a little, from coverage of Russia, unfounded allegations of wiretapping, White Nationalism cells in the White House, and tax returns. It changes the pace of policymaking, putting it in the drip-drip-drip control of Congress.

All of this will get granular as Congress prepares to act on the expiring Continuing Resolution that is funding government. They have approximately 6 weeks to choose whether to begin making cuts immediately (in fiscal 2017) or defer them to next year (fiscal 2018 starts October 1st).

The Continuing Resolution is serious business. Steady-state, straight-line fiscal policy through 2017 would significantly increase the odds that 2018 will continue funding of government programs near current levels. In a sense, it would raise the bar.

Advocates on all sides will take the Continuing Resolution seriously. Literally, the future is at stake.

 

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