According to Donald Trump at the unveiling of his America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, “a budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority – because without safety, there can be no prosperity”. While this is a valid statement, there are many forms of safety and security that citizens in one of the wealthiest countries in the world rely on.
The Trump administration has announced its first budget proposal, and sticking to the aggressive campaign rhetoric, the White House is proposing a £43 ($54) billion (9%) increase, to military spending. Despite all the hype surrounding the proposed budget, it is merely an outline of what the administration wants; the actual budget for 2018 will be decided by congress.
The fear mongering behind the proposed increase keeps in line with Trump’s campaign catchphrase, “America First”, Trump’s plan to keep the United States protected from the outside world. In order to pay for this increase there will be significant cuts to foreign aid, and many domestic agencies like Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the State Department.
The US military budget already takes over half of federal spending. In 2015, 54% was assigned to the military alone, with only 6% respectively going to each health care, education and veteran’s benefits. The money proposed will go to obtaining new equipment, fighter jets and ships as well as the fight again the so-called Islamic State.
The US’s next largest military competitor is China, who spend three to four times less. The National People’s Congress has recently announced an increase in their military spending of 7%, which will focus especially on their navy. This is the lowest increase since 2010, and likely due to the slowing of the Chinese economy.
Many believed that China would attempt to increase budget to match the increase of the US, especially considering recent tense encounters with the American navy and their increasing presence around islands considered disputed territory in the South China Sea.
Is this proposed increase in spending just a show of force for a president who loves the spotlight, and is trying to flex his military might to those he sees as competitors on the world stage? According to The Independent, it is unusual to have such a drastic increase in military spending at a time of relative peace. The US is currently not engaged in any large scale conflicts apart from fighting IS in Syria and Iraq.
In a quote from Trump’s budget officer, “the president said specifically hundreds of times … ‘I’m going to spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home’. And that’s exactly what we’re doing with this budget”. However the consequences of this budget, if it goes ahead as proposed will be far reaching. The rhetoric from the Trump administration’s “America First” is losing sight of the real needs of American citizens. An increasingly wider gap between the rich and poor, education standards are dismal in some areas. The cuts to these important agencies and programs will be widespread and hit the most vulnerable the hardest, many of whom are the very people who voted for Trump in last November’s election.
What the Trump administration fails to recognise is that cuts to social programmes, foreign aid and diplomacy will actually result in more of a threat to national security. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres suggested that it would take more that new military equipment to stop terrorism. Secretary General Guterres suggests this would include peace building, conflict prevention and resolution, and sustainable and inclusive development. However the proposed increase in military spending is counter productive to this point, increasing funding to health care and education would surely be more beneficial to US citizens than an increase to the biggest military budget in the world. If the Trump administration is truly committed to eradicating terrorism and protecting America, it may want to look at the real issues facing millions of American’s and start there.