To be certain, the budget proposal that President Donald Trump announced last week will mostly be ignored by Congress. A president’s budget is little more than a suggestion, and legislative leaders are likely to approach this one with a quick and dismissive “thanks, but no thanks.”
Budgets, in truth, are value statements, serving as declarations of who we are and what we aspire to be. Therefore, it is instructive to take a close look at what Trump and his administration believe is necessary to make America great again. For example, the federal Department of Education would have its funding slashed by 47 percent; the State Department would see a 32 percent cut; the Environmental Protection Agency budget would be reduced by 31 percent.
Defense? That budget would increase by 3 percent, despite the fact that the United States already spends more on the military than the next seven biggest-spending nations combined.
We don’t believe these are appropriate value statements, and locked in the details is the devil of vast cuts to social services and safety-net programs.
Supporters believe that Trump is taking necessary aim upon reducing the federal deficit, even if most economists believe the numbers do not add up. But House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., answered critics of the budget by saying, “What I see is a president keeping his promises.” Trump did, after all, win the election.
While there is room for differing opinions regarding a budget to nowhere, one idea near and dear to the Northwest should be considered so outlandish that is does not even warrant discussion. Trump has proposed selling the Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission system to private interests. The mere mention of such an plan is patently absurd.
Because it is a public entity, the BPA is beholden to the public and not to investors demanding a significant return on their money. For decades, the Northwest has benefited from clean, cheap, abundant, renewable power that has provided the foundation for a solid economy while attracting manufacturers.
Like all presidential budget proposals, Trump’s will be dead on arrival as Congress develops its own spending plans. But in considering what to embrace from the president’s proposal and what to ignore, budget writers should be guided by the notion that a federal spending plan is more than a budget – it is a statement of our shared values. Trump’s proposal does little to reflect the values of the Northwest.