By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 7, 2020
A petition supported by World BEYOND War, RootsAction.org, and Daily Kos, has thus far gathered over 12,000 signatures from people asking presidential candidates to propose federal budgets.
An important job of any U.S. president is to propose an annual budget to Congress. The basic outline of such a budget can consist of a list or a pie chart communicating — in dollar amounts and/or percentages — how much government spending ought to go where.
As far as we know, no non-incumbent candidate for U.S. president has ever produced even the roughest outline of a proposed budget, and no debate moderator or major media outlet has ever asked for one. There are candidates right now who propose major changes to education, healthcare, environmental, and military spending. The numbers, however, remain vague and disconnected. How much, or what percentage, do they want to spend where?
We won’t know unless we ask. The petition is continuing to gather signatures.
Some candidates might like to produce a revenue / taxation plan as well. “Where will you raise money?” is as important a question as “Where will you spend money?” What we’re asking for as a bare minimum is simply the latter.
The U.S. Treasury distinguishes three types of U.S. government spending. The largest is mandatory spending. This is made up largely of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but also Veterans’ care and other items. The smallest of the three types is interest on debt. In between is the category called discretionary spending. This is the spending that the Congress decides how to spend each year. What we’re asking presidential candidates for is a basic outline of a federal discretionary budget. This would serve as a preview of what each candidate would ask the Congress for as president.
Here’s how the Congressional Budget Office reports on the basic outline of U.S. government spending in 2018:
You’ll notice that Discretionary Spending is split into two broad categories: military, and everything else. Here’s a further breakdown from the Congressional Budget Office.
You’ll notice that veterans’ care appears here as well as in mandatory spending, and that it is categorized as non-military. Also counted as non-military here are nuclear weapons in the “Energy” Department, and various other agencies’ military expenses.
President Trump is the one candidate for president in 2020 who has produced a budget proposal. Here is his latest below, via the National Priorities Project. (You’ll notice that Energy, and Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs are all separate categories, but that “Defense” has climbed to 57% of discretionary spending.)
Congress has, in fact, just given Trump more military funding than he asked for.
What would you ask for? Have you tried asking?