President Donald Trump plans to dismember government one dollar at any given moment.
His first budget – expected to be unveiled later this week – will mark Trump’s most significant attempt yet to remold national life and the connection between federal and state power.
It would codify an assault on regulatory regimes over the environment, business and education bequeathed by former President Barack Obama, and endeavor to stop decades of steadily growing government reach.
All presidential budgets are aspirational documents – and few emerge from Congress in the same shape as they arrived on Capitol Hill.
But Trump’s first budget will make more of a statement than most debut spending blueprints by other new presidents. The White House has clarified it intends to use the document to usher in the radical political changes that powered Trump’s upstart, anti-establishment campaign a year ago.
It comes on the heels of other enormous changes, for example, the abrupt dismissal of 46 US attorneys a week ago and the effort to dismantle Obama’s signature health care law.
The “deconstruction of the administrative state” is what Trump’s political guru Stephen Bannon calls the President’s agenda.
The senior White House adviser laid out his philosophy during a rare public appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference a month ago.
“If you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction. The way the progressive left runs, is if they can’t get it passed, they’re just going to put in some sort of regulation in an agency,” Bannon said.
“That’s all going to be deconstructed and I think that that’s why this regulatory thing is so important.”
Slicing up government power is part of a deeper antipathy towards institutions and the political establishment that runs deep in the Trump White House.
At various times during the early months of his term, the President has seemed at odds with different parts of the government that he runs – his disputes with intelligence agencies are a prime example. A week ago, Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer did not reject the notion of a “deep state” of entrenched federal employees that is popular among some of the President’s supporters, recommending that some embedded former Obama administration officials were working to bring down the Trump agenda from within the government.
“We’re going to do more with less,” Trump told state governors late last month, promising a government that is “lean and accountable to the people.”
Trump will highlight his priorities by increasing military spending by $54 billion, and is additionally expected to boost funding for homeland security – money that may be used to toughen immigration enforcement and to build his wall on the southern border.
The President will cement his “America First” policy by slashing State Department funding, foreign aid spending and grants to the United Nations, officials have effectively clarified. And nowhere is his assault on government expected to be as dramatic as at the Environmental Protection Agency – which is bracing for a huge decrease of its budget.
“I think the important thing to remember about any budget is that it is more of a policy document – ‘this is what my ideal policy would be, this is my vision of the next four years,'” said Justin Bogie, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“I think for President Trump it is important for him to get these ideas out there and show ‘I am still committed to these things.'”