Trump puts the skinny in
his 'skinny budget'
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[March 16, 2017]
By Roberta Rampton
(Reuters) - It's not unusual for a newly minted White House to present
what's known as a "skinny budget," a wish list of spending requests for
Congress and some basic economic projections.
However, President Donald Trump's first crack at the budget, released on
Thursday, took "skinny" to a new, anemic level as he laid out his plans
for boosting military spending, and cutting foreign aid and an array of
Spreadsheets are out. Bullet points are in. Weighing in at a mere 53
pages, and containing just four slender tables, Trump's budget had
little meat on its bones for experts hungry to dive into the details of
the new administration's fiscal policy.
That may make it the skinniest skinny budget, by far, compared with the
40 years of presidential budgets in transition years tracked by the
Congressional Research Service (CRS).
When President Jimmy Carter took office, his first budget document was
101 pages, the CRS said. President George H.W. Bush's first take was 193
pages, and President George W. Bush's was around the same length, at 207
President Bill Clinton's first budget document was 145 pages, while
President Barack Obama's initial take was a leaner 134 pages.
The difference is in focus. Trump's budget looks only at "discretionary"
programs for the year ahead, accounting for only about a third of the
It makes no assumptions about "mandatory" spending on programs like
Social Security or Medicare, says nothing about spending beyond fiscal
2018, and gives no projections about how promised tax cuts and
infrastructure spending might affect the nation's bottom line.
"This is a budget blueprint, not a complete budget," said Trump's budget
director Mick Mulvaney, ahead of its release, promising a full buffet of
data, forecasts, and details in the full budget in mid-May.
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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One
as they approach Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. March 15, 2017.
To be sure, budget experts were not expecting a hefty document. The
Trump administration had hinted it would be on the thin side of skinny.
"It could be emaciated," Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord
Coalition, a non-partisan budget reform advocacy group, said in an
interview on Tuesday.
"At some point, you've got to put your cards on the table, and show some
numbers," Bixby said.
Maya MacGuineas, head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget,
said there were too few details to fully understand the larger choices
ahead: "It is impossible to see the big picture when you only have a few
pieces of the puzzle."
Kenneth Baer, a former associate director in Obama's Office of
Management and Budget, said an overly skinny budget would make it hard
to interpret how the Trump administration would spend taxpayers' money.
"It's sort of like building a house, but only putting up the front
door," Baer said.
(Editing by Paul Tait and Bernadette Baum)
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