Let the Games Begin … BUDGET! … You Can’t Handle the Truth … There is No Trumpist Wing in Congress … Wiretap Slap … Drip, Drip, Drip … VR for When Traditional Therapy Fails our Returning Soldiers … The West Palm Media Market …. Kiss Me I’m Irish … and other news of the week.
Joyce Rubenstein, Capstone National Partners
LET THE NEGOTIATING GAMES BEGIN theSkimm “Yesterday, President Trump gave Congress his outline for the federal budget. This is the first step in deciding how the gov spends its money in the next fiscal year. On Trump’s wish list: a huge military spending increase and billions to help build a wall along the US-Mexico border. To make those things happen, he wants to cut funding for the EPA and the State Department. And completely cut funding for gov programs that help pay for the arts and public broadcasting. Meaning Big Bird’s on notice. These things are typically on the GOP’s chopping block in budget proposals. Next: Congress has to give the OK. And lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have juuuuust a few edits. They have to agree on a plan before October. Even though the GOP’s in charge, it’ll need at least a few Dems on its side to have enough votes to get it passed in the Senate.”
IF YOU READ ONLY ONE ARTICLE ON THE BUDGET … this is the one. Click Here. Breaks down how each agency’s discretionary funding would be affected by Trump’s proposal, in detail.
WHERE GOEST POPULISM? Columnist David Brooks “The Trump budget is an even more devastating assault on … populism. It eliminates or cuts organizations like the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that are important to people from Tennessee and West Virginia up through Ohio and Michigan. It cuts job-training and road-building programs. It does almost nothing to help expand opportunity for the working class and almost everything to serve defense contractors and the national security state.”
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH “The possibility [exists] that Donald Trump doesn’t really care about domestic policy; he mostly cares about testosterone.
He wants to cut any part of government that may seem soft and nurturing, like poverty programs. He wants to cut any program that might seem emotional and airy-fairy, like the National Endowment for the Arts. He wants to cut any program that might seem smart and nerdy, like the National Institutes of Health. But he wants to increase funding for every program that seems manly, hard, muscular and ripped, like the military and armed antiterrorism programs. Indeed, the Trump budget looks less like a political philosophy and more like a sexual fantasy. It lavishes attention on every aspect of hard power and slashes away at anything that isn’t. The Trump health care and budget plans will be harsh on the poor, which we expected. But they’ll also be harsh on the working class, which we didn’t.
We’re ending up with the worst of the new guard Trumpian populists and the old guard Republican libertarians. … When these two plans fail, which seems very likely, there’s going to be a holy war between the White House and Capitol Hill. I don’t have high hopes for what’s going to emerge from that war, but it would be nice if the people who voted for Trump got economic support, not punishment.”
BUDGET TRAP Politico “Last time the GOP went down this [budget] road, the government shut down. This time, they don’t even have Obama to blame. … Just four years ago Speaker Paul Ryan, then chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed almost exactly what Trump wants now: big increases for the military combined with tens of billions in cuts to nondefense programs. The House went along, and within months the whole appropriations process collapsed, setting the stage for a costly government shutdown in the fall of 2013. Now Trump wants the GOP to try again — only this time he openly substitutes his own ideology for deficit reduction. WILL REPUBLICANS END UP NEGOTIATING ONLY WITH THEMSELVES? … Does the party of Bob Dole really want to decimate food aid overseas? Wasn’t it President Gerald Ford who championed Community Development Block Grants? Even Ronald Reagan found money for fuel assistance for the poor, why none now? And after years of espousing welfare-to-work, why are Republicans being asked again to cut job training funds?” Full Article.
AGENCIES AND PROGRAMS TRUMP WANTS TO ELIMINATE USAToday …. with many agencies taking percentage spending cuts in the double digits, for dozens of smaller agencies and programs the cut is 100%. Click HERE for the list.
CALLING OUT A FEW CUTS …
MEALS ON WHEELS WashPo “At a news conference Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief, defended proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, which provides food aid to needy senior citizens, by saying the program is one of many that is “just not showing any results.” Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit group that receives funding from the federal government, state and local governments and private donors. “We serve more than 2.4 million seniors from 60 to 100+ years old each year,” the organization writes. “They are primarily older than 60 and because of physical limitations or financial reasons, have difficulty shopping for or preparing meals for themselves.” PEER REVIEWED RESEARCH A 2013 review of studies, for instance, found that home-delivered meal programs for seniors “significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life. Not only that, the programs offer good bang-for-your-buck: “These programs are also aligned with the federal cost-containment policy to rebalance long-term care away from nursing homes to home- and community-based services by helping older adults maintain independence and remain in their homes and communities as their health and functioning decline.” SO, IN CONCLUSION … the programs help seniors stay at home and out of costly nursing facilities. If you’re interested in keeping a lid on health-care costs, the importance of this finding can’t be overstated. NOTE: The average cost of a one-month nursing home stay is equivalent to providing home-delivered meals five days a week for @ 7 YEARS, one of the studies found”. Hmmm….
MEDICAL AND SCIENCE RESEARCH WashPo “… the cuts are deep and broad. They also go beyond what many political observers expected. Trump had made clear that he would target the EPA, but the budget blueprint calls for a startling downsizing of agencies that historically have received steady bipartisan support. The National Institutes of Health, for example, would be cut by nearly $6 billion, about a fifth of the NIH budget …. the shock waves of this blueprint will be felt far beyond the walls of government bureaucracies. The scientific endeavor across America depends to a large degree on competitive grants distributed by federal agencies that face dramatic budget cuts. NIH uses only about 10% of its $30 billion budget for in-house studies; more than 80% goes to some 300,000 outside researchers.
EPA Proposed cut of 31% can only be seen as a first step toward dismemberment. “The president wants a smaller EPA,” Mulvaney explained. “He thinks they overreach.” Trump wants to eliminate more than 3,200 EPA jobs, representing more than 20% of the workforce. It is perhaps no surprise that Trump wants to end EPA programs and regulations aimed at halting global warming, since he has ventured the opinion that climate change is a Chinese hoax; NASA programs to study warming would be cut as well. But the budget would also eliminate federal funding for efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.
The Energy Department’s Office of Science would see its $5 billion budget cut by nearly 20%, while the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would see its $300 million budget zeroed out.
NO TRUMPIST WING Politico “Less than two weeks after the unveiling of the GOP Obamacare replacement, the party is already staring into the abyss. The bill has had the worst rollout of any major piece of legislation in memory, and failure is very much an option. If the proposal falters, it will be a political debacle that could poison President Trump’s relationship with Congress for the duration. …That relationship is awkward and tenuous. … This is a product of how the Republican sweep of 2016 was won on separate tracks. Trump tore up many Republican orthodoxies and went out and found a different way to unlock the electoral map, winning in the industrial Midwest. Congressional Republicans more or less stuck with the usual script, kept Trump at arm’s length, and held their majorities in the House and the Senate. As a result, there is no Trumpist Wing in Congress. The faction most favorable to him, the House Freedom Caucus, is made up of ideological conservatives whose philosophy is at odds with Trump’s economic populism, even if they are drawn to his anti-establishmentarianism. And there was no off-the-shelf Trump legislation that Congress could begin on immediately. In the campaign, Trump identified a constituency and a message, but the agenda was often symbolic (Mexico will pay for the wall) or nebulous (negotiating better trade deals). The natural reflex, then, was to defer to the Republican leadership in Congress. Click for Article.
NOT QUITE THE START EXPECTED WashPo “When Republicans imagined having a president of their own and control of Congress, they thought it would be … [a] new era of efficiency and effectiveness that showed Americans what the GOP was really capable of. That is not quite how things are working out. News from just Thursday …
– The travel ban: Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland halted the second version of the administration’s travel ban, ruling that its discriminatory intent likely makes it unconstitutional and putting it on indefinite hold.
– The Affordable Care Act repeal: … the Ryan Health Care Plan punishes the very people Trump … had vowed to help. It would raise premiums by as much as 25% on people between 50 and 64, one core of the Trump voter base. It would completely hammer working-class voters whose incomes put them just above the Medicaid threshold. And … the CBO assessment showed that the Republican bill would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health coverage. (House Republicans will vote Thursday on Ryan’s Obamacare replacement bill, two senior GOP sources said. This means they are confident they have the 216 votes needed to pass the bill.)
–The Budget: “… calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad.
That last one may not look like bad news — yet. But it’s going to produce both internal and external problems. It’s already causing consternation among Republicans on Capitol Hill, many of whom like to talk about limited government in the abstract but aren’t as happy about the kind of radical cuts the administration is suggesting, setting up a conflict between the White House and Congress. They’ll also find that the public, too, thinks “small government” sounds like a good idea until you start cutting the programs they depend on. And that’s before we even get to the Russia scandal. SO WHAT’S GOING ON? First, this administration is not failing because of some brilliant strategy by Democrats. They’re being weighed down by problems of their own making. In isolation each problem would be difficult but ultimately manageable; together they’re giving the administration nothing but bad days. Let’s take them each in turn:
Abysmal management. Trump was only the latest in a long line of political figures who argued that if someone from outside politics took over the government, he’d whip it into shape with his business savvy and management expertise. The result has been the most chaotic and incompetent White House anyone can remember. As Politico reported Wednesday, “A culture of paranoia is consuming the Trump administration, with staffers increasingly preoccupied with perceived enemies — inside their own government,” creating “an environment of fear that has hamstrung the routine functioning of the executive branch.”
Almost no one at the top levels of the Trump administration has experience in government, which not surprisingly has made everything more difficult as they bumble around trying to figure out how things work. … the administration hasn’t even nominated people to fill more than 500 of the 553 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, leaving agencies across the government barely able to function. If this is what Trump considers a “fine-tuned machine,” imagine what it would look like if it weren’t running so smoothly.
A disastrous first legislative priority. Republicans may have had no choice but to pursue the repeal of the ACA right off the bat, but they could hardly have gone about it in a less competent way. After seven years of attacking the law, they still hadn’t settled on their alternative. Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review, writes that the repeal bill “has had the worst rollout of any major piece of legislation in memory,” and has left the GOP “staring into the abyss.”
An impulsive, distracted president. People keep wondering if the latest Trump outburst is a clever ploy to distract the country from whatever piece of bad news is currently vexing the administration. But the one who’s easily distractible is the president himself, and then he in turn distracts his staff and congressional allies. Just look at what’s happening with his accusation that President Barack Obama tapped his phones. On impulse, after reading an article on a white nationalist website, Trump levels a ludicrous and baseless charge, then everyone in the White House has to pretend that it’s serious and legitimate, and they’re forced to answer questions about it for weeks. All that time could be spent advancing an affirmative agenda. Because he can never admit that he was wrong, Trump drags the issue out endlessly, just as he did with earlier iterations of this pattern, about the size of his inaugural crowd or the millions of phantom illegal votes that led to his popular vote loss (Check out the transcript of his Wednesday interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. Just sayin.).
Much as you can blame Republicans in Congress, including Ryan, for being Trump’s enablers, there’s no doubt that they’re not happy about how things are going. And as time goes on and their minds turn to the 2018 elections, they’re going to start thinking more and more about their own survival. Given that even in the best of times the president’s party usually loses seats in the midterms, they may begin looking for ways to separate themselves from an unpopular president, which is only going to make future legislating more complicated. Now, the caveat … there’s plenty of time for the administration to get its act together and start operating with some minimal level of competence.”
WIRETAP SLAP theSkimm “Earlier this month, Trump claimed that Obama ordered his phones at Trump Tower to be wiretapped leading up to the presidential election. He didn’t say how he knew this. But since it’s illegal for a president to order wiretaps on US citizens, the allegation raised some flags. Team Obama said it definitely didn’t happen. FBI Director James Comey allegedly asked the Justice Department to publicly deny Trump’s claims. Meanwhile, the White House asked Congress to investigate. Congress said ‘sure thing.’ Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee said ‘nope, we got nothing.’ Earlier this week, the House Intelligence Committee said the same thing. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) chimed in too, saying “no such wiretap existed.” But Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump “stands by” his claims. Congress has asked the Justice Department to hand over any evidence it has that this happened. The Justice Department said it would like a little more time, please. WHERE THIS STANDS The current president of the United States has accused the former president of spying on him. This is not a small deal. Next week, Comey will have a public sit-down with Congress to update them on the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the election. All of the above will probs come up too.”
THIS WEEKS ‘YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP” DEPARTMENT “President Donald Trump is expected to tap Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist and former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe, to be the deputy administrator of the EPA. “Sources cautioned that the decision has not yet been finalized, but they said Wheeler is expected to get the job. It’s unclear when Trump will make the announcement, but one source said it could be weeks. … Wheeler is a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy, the nation’s largest privately owned coal company, which regularly sued the Obama administration over its environmental regulations. As a lobbyist, Wheeler may need to obtain a waiver to serve at the EPA.”
TRUMP BUDGET FALLS SHORT OF DEFENSE HOPES Morning D “President Trump’s new budget proposal promises to lay the groundwork for his much-anticipated military buildup. But it is already being criticized as over-hyped. “Without more money and greater detail about how it will be spent, the plan falls far short of paying for what Trump promised during the campaign, according to lawmakers and military budget experts.
“The blueprint proposes $639 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2018 – or $52 billion more than the current year, a 10% increase. But while it boasts that it “fully repeals” spending limits imposed in 2011, the plan includes only a one-year increase – and one that is only a tad larger than what the Obama administration had laid out in its long-term spending plan. Nor does it detail how it would allow the administration to reach its lofty goals of a larger Navy and Army, close the gap on military readiness and reduce costs.” HAWKS STILL AREN’T FANS: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), who chair the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, doubled down on their critique that Trump’s defense topline isn’t enough to pursue a major military expansion. … “It is clear that this budget proposed today cannot pass the Senate,” McCain flatly stated.
DEFENSE SUPPLEMENTAL – AN OCO SURPRISE While $5.1 billion of the request falls under the war-related Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account for operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere – which isn’t capped by law – the remaining $24.9 billion is specifically allocated to the Pentagon’s base budget for this fiscal year. And it would require Congress to lift the defense budget caps for 2017. Lawmakers have shown a willingness in recent years to tap the war budget to circumvent defense spending caps. Former President Barack Obama vetoed a version of the NDAA in 2015 that included $38 billion in war funding dedicated to base budget priorities. And the fiscal 2017 NDAA, signed in December, included several billion dollars in OCO used to restore readiness gaps in the regular Pentagon budget. But the $25 billion in base funds outlined Thursday includes a number of items popular on Capitol Hill. AND A NEW SLUSH FUND? The supplemental also includes a request for a nearly $2 billion “OCO Transfer Fund” that would allow the administration to obligate war funding as it sees fit. “It’s ironic that Mulvaney, who’s railed against slush funds for years, creates one,” a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, referring to White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina. HERE COMES THE HARDWARE: The supplemental also proposes adding $13.5 billion in procurement for additional platforms — 5-F-35s, 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets, 20 Apache and 17 Black Hawk helicopters, 12 THAAD interceptors and full funding of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. AND PLEEEEASE PASS THAT APPROPS BILL, TOO The Pentagon still views passage of a full-year defense spending bill as a top priority. Operating on a continuing resolution beyond the April 28 deadline for the current temporary funding measure “would be very problematic” for the department.”
DRIP DRIP … Mike Flynn WSJ “President Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was paid tens of thousands of dollars by Russian companies shortly before he became a formal adviser to the then-candidate, according to documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee that revealed business interests that hadn’t been previously known. Mr. Flynn was paid $11,250 each by a Russian air cargo company that had been suspended as a vendor to the United Nations following a corruption scandal, and by a Russian cybersecurity company that was then trying to expand its business with the U.S. government, according to the documents … The speaking engagements took place in the summer and fall of 2015, a year after Mr. Flynn had been fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and while he continued to maintain a top-secret level security clearance.” This. Is. Stunning.
THE MAN WHO WANTS TO UNMAKE THE WEST Europeans are starting to worry that Steve Bannon has the EU in his cross hairs. Here’s how the White House could genuinely help pull it apart. Read it @Politico Magazine.
Why you should care about America’s aging workforce … The percent of the workforce that is 65 or older is at a record 5.9%, more than double its record low in the mid-1980s. Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics
SHOUT-OUT TO University of Southern California/ Institute for Creative Technologies Great article about the work that Skip Rizzo and the ICT are doing to treat returning soldiers suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Read it here
WHY THE WEST PALM BEACH TV MARKET IS HEATING UP “Outside pressure groups are flocking to the West Palm Beach media market for narrow, cheap television campaigns on weekends when [Donald] Trump calls it home,” CNN’ reports. “The budgets are small, but the buys are a reminder of the unusual efforts being undertaken just to convince one particularly avid television watcher. When he’s back up the north, the ads vanish. When Trump touches down at his resort on Friday, he can catch both anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List on Fox News or MSNBC, or then switch over to broadcast to hear abortion rights advocates Cancer Survivors for Planned Parenthood make the exact opposite argument, according to buy contracts seen by CNN.”
KISS ME I’M IRISH
“It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy. He too, of course, was an immigrant.”
–Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny while standing just feet away from President Trump on Thursday at a White House event honoring St. Patrick. (Mic Drop)