RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Trump administration has been dogged by controversy for the past few weeks, but now, even as the president is traveling overseas, his administration is proceeding with the business of government. It's presenting the 2018 budget today. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney calls it a, quote, "taxpayer first" budget.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MICK MULVANEY: We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs.
MARTIN: The budget includes less money for Medicaid, food stamps and disability payments; more money for the military, Border Patrol and veterans. We've got NPR's Scott Horsley on the line with us to give us a preview of the budget. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: How does this spending plan measure up to the draft budget plan that we saw earlier this year?
HORSLEY: Well, the budget that came out a couple of months ago was referred to at the White House as the skinny budget, and it only dealt with a skinny piece of the overall government spending pie, namely the so-called discretionary spending that Congress has to authorize each year. This budget is more comprehensive, and it includes what is really the bulk of government spending, which is entitlement programs. Now, it doesn't make big changes to the biggest entitlement programs, namely Medicare and the Social Security retirement programs. But it does call for substantial cuts to other mandatory spending, including the Social Security disability program, food stamps, as you mentioned, and Medicaid. It would cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid spending over the next decade.
MARTIN: Didn't we hear about these Medicaid cuts when the House passed their health care bill and didn't some senators say no way to those cuts?
HORSLEY: (Laughter) You're right. And that is a useful reminder, that this blueprint that the White House puts out is just sort of a notional idea of what the White House would like to see. But ultimately, it's Congress that controls the purse strings, and lawmakers will have to decide what sort of spending they're going to authorize. But yes, the Obamacare repeal bill that was drafted by Republicans in the House would cut substantially into Medicaid, and there are some Republican senators who have expressed concern about that, certainly moderate Republicans but also some very conservative Republicans in states that did expand the Medicaid program under Obamacare and in some cases saw big gains in the number of people getting health insurance.
MARTIN: So what about the deficit - which is something that has traditionally been incredibly important to the Republican Party, getting the deficit under control. Does this budget move in that direction?
HORSLEY: It does. This budget, if it were actually adopted, says it would reduce the deficit as a share of the overall economy really right away and would actually eliminate the federal budget in its 10th year in 2027. However, big asterisks attached to that one as it does rely on these pretty substantial cuts, which Congress may or may not see fit to enact. And also it relies on a relatively rosy forecast of what's going to happen with the U.S. economy. Namely, it suggests that the economy is going to ramp up rather quickly in the next several years to 3 percent annual economic growth - that's about double the growth rate we saw last year - and that it would sustain that 3 percent growth rate for the better part of a decade.
Now, a lot of independent forecasters think that's overly optimistic, partly because where would the workers come from to have that level of economic growth? We already have relatively low unemployment, and we have a lot of baby boomers who are hitting retirement age every day. One of the rationales the Trump administration offers for these cuts to safety net programs is it would effectively force some people who are not working now to get back into the workforce.
MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Hey, Scott, thanks for breaking it down for us.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Rachel.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.