Cutting the Smallest and Slowest Growing Part of the Budget

President Trump's March budget release will reportedly increase defense spending next year by $54 billion and cut non-defense spending by the same amount. At the same time, the budget will not have policies addressing revenues or mandatory spending, even though mandatory spending and interest on the debt makes up 70 percent of the budget and over 80 percent of the spending growth.

The $54 billion swap transfers about 1 percent of the overall federal budget from non-defense to defense appropriations. The non-defense discretionary portion, which includes funding for federal agencies such as the Departments of State, Commerce, and Education, accounts for just about 15 percent of the budget and is projected to grow by less than a fifth in the next decade.

Areas that reportedly will be targeted by the budget makes up a much smaller portion than that. The total amount the federal government spends on foreign aid is about 0.9 percent of the federal budget, and the whole budget of the Environmental Protection Agency is about 0.2 percent. The combined federal funding for PBS, NPR, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities make up a miniscule part of the FY 2017 national budget at 0.02 percent. Their federal funding is forecasted to increase by just around one-fifth in the next ten years.


Between defense and non-defense, the discretionary spending affected by Trump's budget request makes up 30 percent of the budget and will only grow by about a quarter.

Driving our spending growth and the rise in our nation's debt are three areas of the budget: Social Security, major health care programs, and interest on the debt. Social Security and major health care programs costs account for half of total spending and are projected to almost double in nominal dollars over the next decade. Interest payments are expected to nearly triple by 2027. It is mandatory spending, and particularly Social Security and health care spending, that lawmakers will need to rein in to put debt on a sustainable path.