homepage logo

Cafe Society to discuss President Trump’s budget

By Staff | Jan 27, 2017

The first inescapable brush with reality will come when President Trump has to sign off on a budget, something both he and hopefully the nation will be able to live with through this first tumultuous year. That will be the basis of Caf Society’s next discussion on Jan. 31.

Despite the flurry of activity, in terms of words and deeds coming out of the White House since Jan. 20, the ultimate authority for spending and tax decisions is the U.S. Congress. The necessary analysis, projections and finally, decisions needed to forge a viable budget are complex and time consuming. And, it is far too late to start making radical changes in the planning assumptions upon which the budget process has to proceed. So despite the dramatic pronouncements and rhetoric that the President uses to keep faith with his new constituents, it could simply be tantamount to moving the deck chairs around on the deck of the Titanic as it sinks. For the present, the U.S. government is operating on a Continuing Resolution, passed last December to give the new Congress and the President time (until April 28) and the Senate, in turn passed a 2017 budget resolution enabling us to keep steaming (which usually means on a steady course and speed). But the new man at the helm is already giving radical rudder orders that could have serious consequences for the stability and safety of our ship of state.

These informal discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. each Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University (SU) Student Center. They are an integral part of the SU Life Long Learning Program and are intended to facilitate a dialog on current issues between the students and older members of our community. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe Society facilitator, Mike Austin said, “Any discussion of governmental budgets is a daunting process of delving into arcane statistical computations and forecasts that usually tell us a lot about the past and little about the future. Even that perspective is denied to an incoming President in our American political process which is predicated on denial and abhorrence of substantive continuity with his successor. It is like a first encounter with “new math”, if you had that experience in grade school. The numbers might not add up! If the President has had troubles with the CIA, wait and see what happens when he has to deal with the Congressional Budget Office. It has been a hard, cold reality for some years now, certainly through-out our generation, that the lion’s share of the federal budget is consumed by inflexible entitlements.

“These intractable commitments are so indelibly imbedded in people’s lives that even minor adjustments are hardly feasible, and certainly not worth the political risk. Donald Trump, for that matter any U.S. President has to play with the hand he (or she) has been dealt. And that means that the needs of an aging population, rising health costs and interest payments will eat up 70 percent of the budget. Other health spending will consume another 10 12 percent leaving only about 18 percent or so of the remaining funding to deal with: Defense, Welfare, Food Stamps, Education, Federal Employment, Farm Subsidies, Foreign Aid and a host of other national requirements.”

Austin continued, “This complex budgetary scenario will become even more complex as the full impact of President Trumps initial actions on health, energy, government employment, regulatory, trade and (last but not least) taxation policies are implemented. Despite preference in some conservative sectors for “dynamic scoring” which means taking financial credit for anticipated improvements in revenue driven by speculation, rather than proven results, the expectation is that we will have to do even more borrowing and add to the still-growing national debt. The problem is that some of the very nations that President Trump is sticking in the eye with a sharp stick hold the markers on large portions of our national debt. We are in debt to China for example, to the tune of 1.25 trillion dollars, and to Japan for 1.15 Trillion. President Trump’s impetuosity may be his biggest problem when it comes to managing our national finances. The ’cause and effect’ of changes in this highly complex arena that governs the funding of nations is driven by trends more often than discrete radical changes. There will be 50 state governors pounding the table, bending the ears of congressional delegations, and demanding their share of the resources that national taxation and regulatory procedures generate. It is a consideration that the President may initially ignore, but not for long. If you are following the state of West Virginia finances, we will be expecting more, rather than less from the Federal government, particularly if substantive changes are made to medical insurance programs.”