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ICYMI: 8 problems with Trump’s ‘budget’ (with a side of thoughts about defense spending)

Summary:
Over at WaPo. One thought about point #7: 7) While analysis of this budget proposal has been extensive, there is one point on which I’ve seen too little analysis: Does the Defense Department really require an extra billion to meet its mission? Lawrence Korb, who has street cred in this space, emphatically says no here. “Just as the sequester is a non-strategic and unwise way to limit a budget, increased funding that is not connected to a sound defensive strategy for the demands we face today will be non-strategic, wasteful, and do more harm than good.” For someone who’s deeply interested in fiscal policy, I don’t research/write enough about defense spending. That’s a problem, and not just because it’s about 15% of the budget, but because it gets so little scrutiny. To be clear, this is not a knee-jerk claim that we must slash spending in the sector. While we spend many multiples more than other countries (eg, Russia spends billion/yr, less than Trump’s requested plus-up), knowledgeable analysts like Michael O’Hanlon think the current budget is in the right ballpark.

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Over at WaPo.

One thought about point #7:

7) While analysis of this budget proposal has been extensive, there is one point on which I’ve seen too little analysis: Does the Defense Department really require an extra $54 billion to meet its mission? Lawrence Korb, who has street cred in this space, emphatically says no here. “Just as the sequester is a non-strategic and unwise way to limit a budget, increased funding that is not connected to a sound defensive strategy for the demands we face today will be non-strategic, wasteful, and do more harm than good.”

For someone who’s deeply interested in fiscal policy, I don’t research/write enough about defense spending. That’s a problem, and not just because it’s about 15% of the budget, but because it gets so little scrutiny. To be clear, this is not a knee-jerk claim that we must slash spending in the sector. While we spend many multiples more than other countries (eg, Russia spends $50 billion/yr, less than Trump’s requested plus-up), knowledgeable analysts like Michael O’Hanlon think the current budget is in the right ballpark.

But my issue is that too many progressives, myself included (and this critique applies to many liberal think tanks in the fiscal biz too), fail to learn as much as we should about defense spending and thus have little to say at moments like this, when the president proposes turning ploughshares into swords on the backs of the poor and the environment.

A few other links that are worth checking out (the WaPo’s been doing great work on the many shortcomings of this budget):

–When it comes to the Meals on Wheels program, all the sudden team Trump cares about evidence. But they get it wrong, big league.

–Underscoring my point #8 re the president’s own party resisting his budget. Nice point by General Mattis in there, btw: if you cut diplomacy, you’re going to need to spend more on bullets.

–On the basic philosophy of this budget: paying for defense by cutting poor people’s programs.

–CBPP’s president, Bob Greenstein, on the budget.

Jared Bernstein
Jared Bernstein joined the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May 2011 as a Senior Fellow. From 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, Executive Director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Bernstein was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute, and between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of Deputy Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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