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Trump slashes foreign aid, arts in hard power blueprint for spending

US President Donald Trump proposed drastic cuts in spending on the arts, science, foreign aid and environmental protection yesterday, in a security-focused budget blueprint that could struggle to pass Congress.

Translating hardline campaign promises into dollar-and-cent commitments, the Republican leader proposed scrapping dozens of programs like public broadcasting and climate funding, while boosting Pentagon spending by US$52 billion.

Trump, in the preface to the spending proposal, described it as “a budget that puts America first,” and that makes safety and security the “number one priority — because without safety, there can be no prosperity.”

The State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would be the biggest losers, seeing their funding reduced by around a third.

That could be a harbinger of steep reductions in foreign aid and funding to UN agencies, with knock-on effects around the world.

The national endowments for the arts and humanities would be scrapped and funding for the National Institutes of Health — a biomedical research facility — would be cut by almost US$6 billion.

“This is a hard-power budget, it is not a soft-power budget,” said White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney.

The former congressman said he trawled through Trump’s campaign speeches for inspiration.

The Pentagon would be the major winner if Trump’s proposed spending priorities go through, with a nearly 10 percent boost — which would create a defense budget already bigger than that of the next seven nations combined.

About US$4 billion will be earmarked this year and next to start building a wall along America’s border with Mexico.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that Mexico will pay for the wall — which will cost at least US$15 billion, according to estimates by Bernstein Research, a consulting firm.

Trump’s broad-brush proposal covers only a small fraction of the US$3.8 trillion federal budget — which is dominated by healthcare, pension and other baked-in costs.

The text will be heavily revised by Congress, before a full budget is released around May. So the plan is as much a political statement as a fiscal outline. The budget is a signal that Trump is a “man of action” and not a “typical politician.”


 

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