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4 Key Takeaways from Trump's 'America First' Budget Blueprint

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On Thursday, President Donald Trump unveiled his first budget blueprint, called ‘America First,’ with the goal to make America great again. The plan aims for significant increases in military and border-security spending, and to offset these boosts, there will be cuts in many other parts of the government, like the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

“There is no question this is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” the president’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters Wednesday. “The president very clearly wanted to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong power administration, so you have seen money move from soft power programs, such as foreign aid, into more hard power programs.”

Here are 4 key takeaways from ‘America First’:

1. Almost every government agency will see some sort of budget cut.

  • State Department: $11 billion, or a 28.7% decrease
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $2.6 billion, or 31.4%
  • Health and Human Services: $12.6 billion, or 16.2%
  • Agriculture Department: $5 billion, or 20.7%
  • Labor Department: $2.5 billion, or 20.7%
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: $1 billion, or 16.3%
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): $5.8 billion, or almost 20%

Other departments facing cuts include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at almost 20%, Commerce at 15.7%, Education at 13.5%, Interior at 11.7%, Housing and Urban Development at 13.2%, and Transportation at 12.7%.

Only the Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs Departments are getting a boost. In total, President Trump is proposing a $54 billion increase in defense spending. Expect industry giants like Boeing BA, Northrop Grumman (NOC - Free Report) , Lockheed Martin LMT, and Raytheon RTN to benefit.

2. The border wall is still a major priority.

President Trump wants $1.5 billion for the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in the current fiscal year, in addition to $2.6 billion in fiscal 2018. This would be enough money for pilot projects to determine the best methods to build the wall, according to Mr. Mulvaney.

Since his time on the campaign trail, the president has vowed that Mexico will pay for the wall, something the country has flat out said it will not do. While the estimate of the full cost of the border wall was not included in the ‘America First’ blueprint, it’s expected to be in the full budget, coming mid-May.

3. The biggest loser might be the EPA.

The president wants to send more than 50 EPA programs to the chopping block, like former President Barack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as well as cutting its Office of Research and Development basically in half, to $250 million.

‘America First’ also eliminates the Energy Star Program, which aims to improve energy efficiency and save consumers money; a grant program that helps cities and states fight air pollution; an office that focuses on environmental justice issues; and infrastructure aid to Alaska Native villages and the Mexico border.

The plan cuts funding for the massive Chesapeake Bay cleanup project down to zero, which had been receiving $73 million each year. Regional programs to clean up the Great Lakes, also championed by Barack Obama, would be eliminated.

With the size—and power—of the EPA dwindling, big polluters may stand to gain. Coal companies like Cloud Peak Energy CLD, BHP Billiton BHP, Rio Tinto RIO, and potentially even Weyerhaeuser Co. WY, a logging giant, could see a boost in stock price as the country’s environmental regulations are drastically scaled back.

4. The budget eliminates programs aimed at helping the poorest Americans.

Another loser of ‘America First’ seems to be people living in poverty. President Trump’s budget proposal calls for cutting social programs that have been around since Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration. He introduced ‘War on Poverty,’ a vast social-welfare legislation, in the 1960s.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps people pay utility bills and weatherize their homes, will be gone, as well as the Community Development Block Grant, a part of HUD that helps support affordable housing and infrastructure, among other things. Other grants for rural water projects, funds for local transit systems, and many other regional economic-development commissions would also end.

The budget would also cut funding on assistance to at-need counties in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission, which promotes economic development in an area that’s home to many in Trump’s rural base.  

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