The White House strongly defended President Trump's budget, which proposes deep cuts to domestic spending, including programs aimed at aiding the poor and funding scientific research.
Budget director Mick Mulvaney stated broadly that the budget was intended to defund areas of the government that had been deemed wasteful or ineffective in the interest of being better stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good,” Mulvaney said. “That is about as compassionate as you can get.”
“We’re trying to focus on the recipients of the money and the folks who give us money in the first place,” he added.
Faced with repeated questions about line items in the federal budget that help fund programs like Meals on Wheels, which provides meals for seniors; after-school educational programs for poor, rural communities; and public broadcasting; Mulvaney insisted that the cuts were targeted at programs that didn't have a track record of success.
“The message the president sent right now is that we want to defund those,” Mulvaney said. “And there are completely defensible reasons for doing that. I put myself in the shoes of that steelworker in Ohio, the coal mining family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit, and I'm saying okay, I have to go ask these folks for money, and I have to tell them where I'm going to spend it.”
“Can I really go to those folks, look them in the eye and say I want to take money from you and I want to give it to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? That is a really hard sell. And in fact something we don't think we can defend anymore,” he added.
Trump's budget also makes significant cuts to scientific research, especially climate change, which is the target of some of the deep cuts within the State Department.
“We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mulvaney said of climate change research. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.”
Mulvaney emphasized that Trump's “hard power” budget aimed to increase spending on defense in part by finding cuts in domestic spending. But the White House does intend to request an increase in spending in fiscal year 2017 to pay for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Mulvaney would not say, however, how that funding would be paid for.
“As to the source of funds, that’s up to the president, the treasury and the State Department,” he said.