What to watch for during Trump’s first congressional address

Tomorrow, Trump will address Congress for the first time with all of his usual flare and spectacle. In a preview of his speech, he plans to discuss his upcoming agenda, including his plans to reform taxes and regulation, repeal and replace Obamacare, increase choice in education, rebuild our military, and improve veterans’ care. His speech promises to be much like all of his other speeches: about him.

Trump will talk about how he has kept all of his promises, but here’s a quick reality check:

  • Trump has done absolutely no legislating so far. Everything he has accomplished has been done through executive action and has not required a single vote.
  • Trump has not unveiled any tax or meaningful regulatory reform packages.
  • He continues to defer to an increasingly dysfunctional Republican Congress on any plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.
  • He has nominated one of the least qualified secretaries of Education ever.

So when Trump talks about his duty to the “forgotten men and women of America,” please remind yourselves that the only thing that even remotely resembles a policy proposal are the spending targets he released today—and I can assure you these targets won’t be helping anyone.

His budget proposal calls on Congress to appropriate $54 billion to defense and make up for the spending increase by cutting nondefense programs by the same amount.

His budget doesn’t touch entitlement programs (like Social Security or Medicare), so to make up for a huge boost to defense spending, all the savings have to come from the other chunk of programs that make up a relatively tiny part of the government’s budget.

So here are some of the big takeaways to remind you that, while Trump’s speech tomorrow may sound hopeful, his policies are devastating.

Takeaway #1 Defense > Diplomacy: Some very likely victims of spending cuts: the EPA and State Department. In particular, SD programs that have to do with diplomacy and foreign aid, including special envoys that perform outreach on key issues like Muslim relations, climate change, and anti-Semitism.

Takeaway #2 No program is safe: A pretty long list of programs are likely to be defunded to the point of elimination. Luckily they’re not that important, like the Violence Against Women Grants or the National Endowment for the Arts.

Takeaway #3 More cuts: Even programs that align with Trump’s agenda are on the chopping block. Programs that fund education, law enforcement, and Veterans Affairs, for example, get at least part of their funding from the nondefense side of the budget equation.

Takeaway #3 Facts Still Don’t Matter: The truly predictable part of this budget is not that Trump wants to destroy programs to support low-income and other programs, it’s that the math doesn’t add up. Even if you gutted all of these programs, it’s likely that the savings will only come out to about 5% of the spending increases Trump is calling for on the defense side.

The bottom line: While this budget is certainly not law, it’s the first concrete list of priorities Trump has released in an otherwise chaotic administration. So when Trump stands up in front of Congress and says that he is working hard for the average American, you should know that his budget says otherwise.


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