The US Will Have Less Influence

Trump’s budget faithfully reflects his ideology and prejudices.

Practice what you preach. The White House budget proposal for 2018 clearly reflects the change in policy and the earlier campaign pledges that Donald Trump now intends to impose. Through this proposal, the new president is transmitting a threatening, profoundly erroneous message both domestically and to rest of the world.

Spending will be cut in all departments with the exception of the Defense Department, which instead will increase 10 percent in accordance with the principle that Trump wants the U.S. “to start winning wars again”; a 7 percent increase for the Department of Homeland Security, reflecting a president obsessed with internal security; and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will grow by 6 percent. Other departments have been subjected to a demolition job: spending on education will be cut by 14 percent, public health by 16 percent, labor by 21 percent and international development by 29 percent. The Environmental Protection Agency is teetering on the brink of disappearance facing a 31 percent cut.

Economic analysis of the budget only confirms the gloomy diagnosis. The reaction is one of bewilderment that an economy with a rate of growth in the region of 3 percent would cut its public spending by 1.2 percent. What is being displayed is an inward withdrawal where the main objectives are to deactivate social protection (even beyond the dismantling of former President Obama’s health care law, which will leave 24 million people without health care insurance) and relegate the tasks of domestic and foreign policing to the states. Faced with this budget, voters should be worried about the coherence of the investment plan in infrastructure that Trump has proposed; more specifically, who will finance it and who will benefit from it, because we are looking at a budget that is, above all, profoundly antisocial and dominated by reactionary ideology.

The document makes clear what kind of U.S. Trump wants for its citizens: shut away within its borders, with visibly low social protection, obsessed with security and ready for military conflict. The new president is committing a miscalculation of historical magnitude. Trump’s intention, as announced every day in his simple rhetoric, is to increase the power of the U.S. (“America First”). The worst path to reaching this objective is to withdraw the country from the multilateral agencies, move away from negotiating with its allies, disown the energetic solidarity it has with the rest of the world and sink into a protectionist decline thereby destroying any outside assistance and encouraging potential conflict. We are looking at the message of someone who intends to lock themselves away in a bunker and view the rest of the world as hostile.

If so-called “soft power” is based on the attempt to attract others toward the same position, the “hard power” consists of imposing personal interests and the subjugation of the others. The president’s budget director, Michael Mulvaney, has said that it is “not a soft-power budget, this is a hard-power budget, and that was done intentionally,” and that the message intended for its allies and adversaries is that the U.S. has a strong and powerful administration. This is a grand mistake as Trump might well be strong in the world but will be anything but influential. On the contrary, he will spend more and become more isolated.

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