The Obama administration managed to increase the national debt from $10.6 trillion in 2009 to nearly $20 trillion in 2016, meaning the cost of serving that debt has doubled and will rise as interest rates rise.
But when President Trump proposes a budget that would cut spending by $4.23 trillion over the next decade there is wailing and gnashing of teeth — including from the majority of Nevada politicians.
Much of the lamenting is over the budget’s proposal to carry out the House-passed modest rollback of Obamacare, specifically rolling back Medicaid eligibility. Previously, Medicaid covered low-income children, pregnant women and disabled, but largely excluded other low-income adults. Obamacare allowed just about anyone earning below 138 percent of the poverty level to become eligible.
Nevada was one of the 31 states to expand Medicaid eligibility since the federal government promised to initially pick up 100 percent of the increased cost and 90 percent in later years.
Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he intends to protect Medicaid funding “at all cost” — meaning your cost. The expansion has added 220,000 Nevadans to Medicaid.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller also said he is concerned about the budget’s cuts to Medicaid and its affect on Nevadans now covered by it.
Freshman Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto joined other senators in signing a letter to Trump bemoaning the proposed Medicaid cuts. She noted that more than 18,000 veterans in Nevada are covered by Medicaid. How many were previously covered or still would be after a rollback was not stated.
“Your proposed cuts to Medicaid and your efforts to take away people’s health coverage are inconsistent with the promises you made to America’s veterans. They deserve better,” the letter states.
Spending as well as cuts are drawing fire.
There is that $120 million in Trump’s budget to restart the licensing process for Yucca Mountain to become a nuclear waste storage site, a measure apparently opposed by a majority of state politicians.
This prompted Heller to say, “From slashing funding for important public lands programs to its renewed effort to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, the President’s budget request contains several anti-Nevada provisions. While Congress ultimately has the power of the purse, I will continue to stand up for Nevada’s priorities by defending our important public lands programs and fighting any effort to turn Nevada into the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Yucca Mountain is dead …”
Rep. Dina Titus of Clark County fired off this missive: “President Trump wants to fund a revival of the failed Yucca Mountain boondoggle that will ultimately cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. Just as his budget overlooks the needs of the America people, Trump’s Yucca Mountain line item ignores the majority of Nevadans who don’t want this dangerous project rammed down their throats.”
On the other hand, Nye County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen sent out a statement saying, “I am pleased that the just published fiscal 2018 budget submitted by President Donald Trump includes funding that will continue the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain Waste Repository in Nye County. The promise of a safe and secure site for nuclear waste has been promised to the nation for more than three decades.”
Time to negotiate for benefits?
Then there is the plan in the budget to save $10 million a year by finally following the provisions of the original 1970s act to protect wild horses by allowing excess animals to be sold for slaughter instead of being warehoused at taxpayer expense.
The wild horse management budget has doubled under Obama to more than $80 million a year. The usual suspects decry this trim.
Few seem willing to throttle back on the government largesse, even though the economy has picked up a bit since the depths of the recession and unemployment has fallen from October 2009’s 10 percent peak to 4.7 percent.
Trump’s budget proposes to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, and trim $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs — all of which have increased in recent years.
Medicaid enrollment has grown by 47 percent since 2006 and spending by 75 percent — to $554 billion in 2015. Food stamp recipients have increased by 11 million.
Trump’s budget is 55 percent larger than 2007’s, though inflation has been 20 percent.
As Ronald Reagan once remarked, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”
A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.