Originally published March 16, 2017
The budget is a moral document.
It’s not clear where that phrase originates, but it’s become a staple of fiscal policy debates in DC, and for very good reason. Budgets lay out how a fifth of the national economy is going to be allocated. They make trade-offs between cancer treatment and jet fighters, scientific research and tax cuts, national parks and border fences. These are all decisions with profound moral implications. Budgets, when implemented, can lift millions out of poverty, or consign millions more to it. They can provide universal health insurance or take coverage away from those who have it. They can fuel wars or support peacekeeping.
What President Donald Trump released on Thursday is not a full budget. It doesn’t touch on taxes, or on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or food stamps. It concerns itself exclusively with the third of the budget that’s allocated through the annual appropriations process.
But it’s a moral document nonetheless. And the moral consequences of its implementation would be profound, and negative. The fact that it will not be implemented in full — that Congress is almost certain not to go along with many of its recommendations — in no way detracts from what it tells us about the administration’s priorities, and its ethics.
Let’s start with poverty.
The article is here.