President Trump is counting on cutting foreign aid to sustain his controversial new budget plan. He intends to introduce massive tax cuts while simultaneously pledging to increase defense spending. This plan would increase the already steep national debt of $600 billion per year. The president needs to slash other areas of the budget to prevent this.
Reducing foreign assistance is one of the major proposed solutions. The only problem? Foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget. This year, the U.S. plans to spend $36.5 billion on foreign assistance. Even cutting that entire amount does not come close to offsetting the suggested $54 billion increase in defense spending.
Trump vows to boost annual defense spending by 10 percent. He needs to counterbalance this by reducing non-defense spending. Most federal spending is non-discretionary, going to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. Therefore, cuts would have to come from discretionary spending, half of which goes to defense. Since Trump insists on increasing defense spending, reductions will be made to other categories.
Alongside foreign assistance, there are several other areas being considered for spending cuts. These categories include the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts, which have respective budgets of $8 billion and $148 million. Cutting these areas does not put a significant enough dent in the $54 billion minimum needed to cover the proposed increases.
President Trump is playing off the lack of public knowledge about these figures. Most Americans believe over 25 percent of the federal budget goes toward foreign aid. They also have similar misconceptions about the amount reserved for federal assistance programs. Consequently, many citizens support cuts in these areas because they think the budget emphasizes programs that only support very specific groups of Americans and foreigners. This confusion leads people to believe that budget plans like this make sense.
Even if the proposed numbers add up, it is highly unlikely that Trump will be able to cut large amounts of foreign assistance without significant pushback. Government officials have come out in protest of the proposal already. They maintain that cutting foreign aid will be harmful to global stability and conflict resolution.
Reducing the foreign aid budget will leave no solution to crisis other than war. By increasing defense spending and decreasing diplomatic tools, the budget would eliminate some of the most important and effective instruments used to combat extremism. Military operations work hand in hand with diplomatic resolutions to keep the U.S. and the world safe. Thus, cutting foreign aid is not the way to “Make America Great Again.”
– Lindsay Harris