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Sowing discord by @BloggersRUs

Sowing discord

by Tom Sullivan

A January 4, 2017 tweet from Sen. Bernie Sanders about the incoming Donald Trump administration resurfaced on Monday. Sanders reminded Trump voters he promised not to cut their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

And voilà:
The Trump administration’s annual budget proposal on Monday envisioned a series of cuts that contrasted with the president’s own words of support for both programs and people — including some groups that make up his political base. To help make way for more military and border spending, it would slash programs large and small, from Medicaid and Medicare — which President Trump as a candidate promised to protect — to safety nets for farmers.
Trump's proposal cuts $845 billion in “waste, fraud and abuse” from Medicare for older Americans, cuts the sitting president deems necessary to offset the climbing deficits generated by two years of his tax cut for wealthier ones. Sanders responded with a series of tweets condemning "Trump’s budget cuts $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, $845 billion from Medicare and $25 billion from Social Security."

With Democrats now in control of the House, Trump's proposal is going nowhere. (Not that his budgets were less dead on arrival when the GOP held the majority.)

Naturally, the proposal includes another $8.6 billion for the president’s border wall/fence/barrier.

Slate's Jim Newell wonders if the White House is not in on the joke. Presidents' budget proposals are typical “statements of priorities” rather than direct guidance to Congress. Trump's cuts to safety net programs to pay for increases in defense spending could be setting up the next government shutdown:

The White House’s only priority, though, is boosting military spending—and it would be more than pleased to see non-defense spending fall off of a cliff. In its new budget, defense spending would increase from $716 billion to $750 billion next year, while non-defense spending would fall from $620 billion to $567 billion. The cuts would come from food stamps, health care, the Environmental Protection Agency, and education, to name just a few.
The Senate’s 60-vote threshold has meant, even with Mitch McConnell as the Republicans' majority leader, to pass budgets Republicans have had to balance boosts to defense spending against Democrats' demand for safety net program increases. With Nancy Pelosi as speaker, Newell suggests, Republicans will have to engage again in bipartisan wrangling of the sort that sets Trump's dentures on edge.

"If Trump proclaims that he won’t sign such a deal," Newell concludes, "he’ll have cornered himself, and the country will again careen toward a government shutdown. In other words, it sounds exactly like the move that would appeal to him most."

Trump loves sowing chaos to keep allies and opponents off balance. In question is whether he has the bandwidth to put energy behind it in the middle of a whirlwind of ongoing special counsel and House investigations into his campaign and his family business, plus just-announced investigations by the New York attorney general's office into Trump Organization projects. Trump could be close to reacting like the Enterprise computer when asked to compute "to the last digit the value of pi."

In the meantime, Democrats sick of years of Republican hectoring about Hillary Clinton's email may have the chance to fire back with But his Medicare cuts.