Monday, July 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Trump's irresponsible budget priorities

President Donald Trump embraces simplistic math and the wrong priorities with an unworkable budget proposal that Congress should ignore. His pitch to increase defense spending by $54 billion, or nearly 10 percent, and offset the increase with cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid without touching entitlements is unwarranted and unrealistic. It will be up to Congress to set the president's heavy-handed approach aside and pursue a more responsible budget that better balances the nation's priorities.

Trump's spending proposal marks the opening bid in what will be a difficult debate in the coming months over next year's budget. While the president has not detailed the specific purposes for his proposed surge in military spending or detailed what cuts he would make to domestic and other programs to pay for it, White House officials have indicated that big cuts are expected to foreign aid, environmental protection and other nonmilitary areas of the discretionary budget. Trump was expected to focus on his budget priorities Tuesday night in his first address to a joint session of Congress.

The president will have a hard time arguing the military needs so much additional money. America spends nearly $600 billion a year on defense, more than the next seven nations combined. Its reduction of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq has given the military budget some breathing room and the opportunity for the Pentagon to visualize the type of force needed to confront the modern-day threats from terror groups and other nonstate actors. Trump's call to send billions more to the military also is at odds with his argument that America's allies need to pay more for their own security and that the United States should redirect its attention back home. With U.S. forces still overseas and the nation's economy still recovering, Americans have no appetite for new arms races or new wars.

The numbers also don't work. Trump would not touch entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that take the lion's share of the federal budget. That means the cuts would fall to areas already lagging, from the State Department to NASA to the Environmental Protection Agency. The White House is also poised to target the foreign aid budget. Broadly defined, the United States spends more than $42 billion annually on assistance for development projects, security and disaster relief, about 1 percent of the total federal budget. That minor investment more than pays for itself, and wiping it out would have a disproportionate impact that would hurt U.S. relations worldwide.

Shortchanging diplomacy for the sake of a military buildup makes no sense. As Defense Secretary James Mattis said in 2013 in testimony to Congress as head of U.S. Central Command: "If you don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition." Foreign aid protects American interests by giving host nations a larger role in providing for their own security and development.

By forgoing entitlements and tax increases, Trump's budget outline only postpones the day when House Speaker Paul Ryan and others can seriously engage Congress and the public in a debate over reforming Social Security and Medicare. Trump also wants to push a tax cut measure and a big spending package — up to $1 trillion — for roads, bridges and other public works. The administration would seek additional funds later this year for a border wall with Mexico (a wall Trump had insisted that Mexico would pay for).

It is fantasy for anyone to propose increasing military spending by 10 percent and paying for it with deep cuts in discretionary spending while protecting entitlements, cutting taxes and investing in infrastructure. For a president who should know better, it is irresponsible.

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Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Published: 07/20/18
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18