Mellman: Trump’s unpopular budget

Mellman: Trump’s unpopular budget

For better or worse, President Trump has displayed little interest in adopting polices that enjoy public support.

Republican members of Congress ought to be uncomfortable with this approach.

On the one hand, in a democracy like ours, public sentiment and public priorities ought to be felt in public policy.

Moreover, Republican senators and members of Congress can only hope to stick their fingers in voters’ eyes a few times before they risk losing their jobs to someone who actually represents voters’ views and values.

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White House teases and touts all suggest the planks the president intends to outline in his remarks to a Joint Session of Congress Tuesday night, will run directly afoul of voters.

Reports suggest he will propose increasing defense spending by a whopping $54 billion.

Of course, it is not at all clear how that money will actually be used to protect us. The President recently suggested he wants to increase spending on our nuclear arsenal.

Exactly who would that be aimed at?

Are we going to nuke the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria? Is that really the a weapon we can use against them?

More to the point, voters don’t want it. In 2014, just 32 percent wanted more spent on defense, while a slightly larger number favored cuts in defense.

Last year, the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation provided a representative panel of more than 7,000 registered voters with information about the defense budget and strongly worded arguments for both increasing and decreasing it.

After sorting through the information, 61 percent made cuts to defense spending including 47 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents.

None of that bodes well for the GOP as the debate unfolds.

A report in December from the Defense Business Board, an advisory panel comprised of corporate executives and consultants from McKinsey and Company, found a huge, $125 billion in waste at the Defense Department.

It’s shocking that Trump is adding vast sums to the Defense budget before even beginning to reduce, let alone eliminate waste that has just been identified.

Of course, adding $54 billion to the military budget requires cutting it elsewhere.

While our newly minted 

Education secretary may be happy to cut public schools, 61 percent of Americans and 51 percent of Republicans want education spending not reduced, but rather increased, according to the 2016 Education Next poll. Just 5 percent of the public and 8 percent of Republicans support the administration’s proposal which will cut education spending.

Trump’s plan also apparently calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to be decimated by budget cuts of over 25 percent.

Voters want none of this nonsense. Just 19 percent want the agency “weakened or eliminated.” Nearly 4 in 10 want the EPA either “strengthened or expanded,” according to a January 2017 Reuters/IPSOS poll.

Sixty-one percent told a Quinnipiac University poll they did not want Trump “removing specific regulations intended to combat climate change.”

In 2014, the National Opinion Research Center found 60 percent of Americans favoring more spending on environmental protection, with just 11 percent wanting less spending in this arena.

Truth is, I really am old enough to remember going through similar debates in the past, with Republicans pushing to cut education, environment and health care to fund tax breaks.

Democrats always came out as the winner in those debates, both substantively and politically.

All indications are that taking money away from these vital and popular programs to fund an increase in our nuclear arsenal or other weapons systems, will be even less popular than spending it on tax cuts.

Trump may think he’s selling something new and different. But it is just a variation on a long running theme. Its outlines are well worn and don’t wear well on Republicans.

 


Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years.

 

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.