Is the wall worth it?
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Is the wall worth it?

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President Trump is proposing slashing government assistance programs, arts and science funding, and more to fund the border wall and military. Trump says the budget puts safety above everything "because without safety, there can be no prosperity." Critics say the budget will hurt America's poor and disadvantaged the most. The programs being targeted for budget cuts are meant to help poor Americans—especially in rural areas. Is the wall worth it? 

The Votes Are In!

Trump is proposing slashing government spending across the board to fund the wall, border security, and the military. Here's what is being targeted for budget cuts or complete elimination. 

On the chopping block: billions of dollars in research aimed at fighting diseases and climate change; job training programs; grants to local communities that pay for public transit and housing, heating oil for the poor; diplomatic efforts across the globe; and libraries.
Proposed for elimination: at least 19 independent agencies including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which provides education, broadband and other investments in rural communities.

The money saved from cutting these programs would be use to fund the border wall with Mexico and grow the military. 

In addition to proposing cuts across the spectrum, Trump would increase funding for school choice, counter-terrorism and the hiring of more border agents and immigration judges and prosecutors. But the biggest increase, by far, would go to the military in the form of an additional $54 billion in annual spending.
The budget calls for $2.6 billion in spending on the president’s proposed border wall and $314 million for new Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel. The administration also asked Congress to pass $3 billion in funding for additional border protection measures this year. The administration will use the border funds on pilot projects that will help determine the safest and most cost-efficient methods for securing areas along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Budget proposals are exactly that—proposals. Nothing is set in stone yet, but Trump's proposed budget to pay for the border wall and military increases reveals his priorities. The government's budget encompasses a full 20 percent of the national economy. In making this budget, Trump's administration carefully considered the tradeoffs with benefit programs and increased spending. Dylan Matthews at Vox says Trump's budget reveals he's willing to give up assistance to the poor to fund his projects. 

A significant reason why these programs have survived over the years is that it doesn’t really make sense to gut them. They’re relatively cheap, with the most expensive, WIC, costing only $6.4 billion last year. That might seem like a lot, but in the context of the nearly $4 trillion a year federal budget it’s a pittance, about 0.16 percent. You’re just not going to make much of any progress toward reducing the deficit by cutting them.
But if you want to hold the deficit harmless while funding a significant increase in Defense and Homeland Security funding, you have to find that money somewhere. And Trump’s team decided to find it in these small but important programs for the poor.

Conservatives point out the government is the biggest it's ever been. It's not as though Trump is dismantling the government—his proposal is only 1.6 percent smaller than current government expenditures. Conservatives think government spending is out of control (the national debt keeps growing) and at a certain point, someone has to make the hard choices. This is it. 

In perspective, all of this melodrama is over probably less than 1 percent of the national budget. As Nick Gillespie points out at Reason, federal spending is at historic high in both absolute terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product, with outlays at more than 20 percent, higher than the post-war average. Until there is entitlement reform — which, right now, seem like never — the only place to trim is within the confines of discretionary spending.

This is not the final budget. Congress will take this as a starting point and craft a budget by consensus that will be far more moderate. Panicking about this budget is senseless—it's not going to be implemented. 

The notion that the final budget will look anything like the blueprint is remote. Then again, most of the budget reflects mainstream Republican positions since 2009, at least. Outside the State Department cut, I’m unsure what reasons GOPers would have for not supporting the reductions. I’m certain they’ll come up with something.
The Trump administration says security must be prioritized above everything else. Once America is secure, America can prosper. That means building the wall and increasing the military's budget. 
"A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority — because without safety, there can be no prosperity," Trump said in a message for his budget, titled "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again."
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