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Credible research and impartial information are critical to fostering fiscal responsibility. The Institute to Reduce Spending engages in and promotes rigorous academic research and scholarship on the subject of federal spending and budgeting. We seek to create a national, nonpartisan dialogue regarding spending reform by presenting information in a publicly accessible manner.

President Trump Releases His Budget Proposal


This morning, President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget released their budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. The proposal includes cuts to various programs while increasing funding for major discretionary departments such as Defense and Homeland Security. The two largest government programs—Social Security and Medicare—were left untouched.


The proposed total outlays for the year would be $4.094 trillion, while the receipts
would be $3.654 trillion in 2018. The deficit would go from $603 billion to $440 billion if the budget were adopted in its entirety. In total, it includes $3.6 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years, the most ever proposed by any President in a Budget. If their economic assumptions are correct, this will lead to a balanced budget by 2027.


The budget focuses on 8 pillars of reform: health reform, tax reform and simplification, immigration reform, reduction in federal spending, regulatory rollback, American energy development, welfare reform, and education reform.


For health reform, the budget focuses on savings from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and also includes an extension of CHIP and the Veterans Choice Program.


Lowering both the corporate and individual rates are primary components of the tax reform portion, which they believe will spur massive economic growth and lead to a healthy economy. They also project that reducing regulations will help grow the economy and save the government money. The regulatory reforms stem from executive orders that the President has issued in the past few months.


In addition to these policy areas, the budget also focused on defense priorities, requesting $639 billion in funding for the Pentagon—$52 billion increase from the previous level, plus around $2 billion for “other defense national defense programs.” It would also add 56,400 more Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines while further increasing the number of military ships and planes.


The budget also requests $44.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and $27.7 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ) for law enforcement, public safety and immigration enforcement programs and activities. As well as investing $2.6 billion in high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology, including funding to plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border.


The budget also lists a $1 trillion private/public infrastructure investment program, reforming Medicaid and disability programs and allowing states to establish paid parental leave programs.


The budget addresses some discretionary programs that the government has funded in the past but fails to address huge programs—like Medicare and Social Security—that are hurting taxpayers the most. If the economic assumptions on growth are correct, this budget is a good start to reining in federal spending, as long as Congress can agree on all of the details. But appropriators should also seek more substantive reforms across the government, not just in the areas identified.

The High Cost of Outdated Crime Policy


On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he had sent a memo to all federal prosecutors on changing the directives of charging and sentencing policy. Sessions instructed his employees to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” and that they must also “disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences.” This is a reversal of the previous administration’s push to moderate the criminal justice system, especially on drug policy.


This policy shift comes at a time when more than a third of drug offenders in federal prison had either minimal criminal history or none at all—the lowest out of all criminal history categories. Drug trafficking offenses account for more than 2/3 of the charges that are subject to mandatory minimum sentences.


Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) tweeted that the new policy is unjust, ineffective and costly. In the other chamber, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) also criticized Sessions in a press release.


Beyond political questions, fiscal conservatives of all stripes are right to be paying close attention to new policies on criminal justice. $51 billion is spent on the war on drugs every year, which added up to 1.5 million arrests in 2015, of which over 80% were for sole possession of drugs, rather than distribution. In other words, the taxpayers pay a high price for policies that largely target nonviolent criminals.


There will always be a range of opinions on criminal justice policy in the United States, but costs will continue to mount if the status quo is maintained. That’s why leaders across the aisle have supported smart reforms in recent years, which have the potential to modernize the system and save serious money – an agenda that both Democrats and Republicans can get behind.

Happy Tax Day!


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Fortunately for the procrastinators, the deadline to file taxes is extended a couple of days. Because April 15th fell on a Saturday this year and the next business day happened to be Emancipation Day, today—April 18th—is the deadline.


Though many Americans will breathe a sigh of relief that their check to Uncle Sam will not be late, a lot of people will still be unhappy to see the hefty amount they have to hand over to Washington. Though the federal government will collect about $3.5 trillion in taxes, it will spend about $4 trillion, leaving a deficit that must be made up through borrowing or inflation—both of which then take more of a toll on taxpayers.


To make up the gap, the government will likely continue to borrow money, adding to the debt and thus the interest we pay on it.


Does the government have any other fiscally conservative options? Well, yes, but then politicians would have to do one of their least favorite things: Deal with spending.


If Washington is serious about tax reform—as many conservatives have stated—then spending reform has to be on the table as well. President Trump has advocated modest cuts to federal agencies in his recent budget plan, but the big-ticket items, like the Pentagon and entitlements, have to at least be discussed. Refusing to do so harms soldiers and seniors just as much as everyday taxpayers.


On Tax Day, it’s important to remember why we are forced to endure this dreaded holiday every year: Because the government spends and spends and spends. In order to make this day a little more bearable in the future, Congress should do more to try to slow the spending train.

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