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What Trump’s Budget Says About His Priorities

President Trump on Thursday released the outline of his first federal budget, which would boost spending on defense and border security while slashing almost everything else.

It’s important to understand what this “skinny budget” is not: an actual accounting of how the government will spend taxpayers’ money. That’s up to Congress to decide, and already many provisions of Trump’s budget appear to be dead on arrival. Rather, it’s best to think of the president’s budget as a statement of priorities. (Trump’s budget was reportedly influenced by — and closely resembles — a blueprint released last year by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.)

So what are Trump’s priorities? The chart below shows how Trump’s proposed discretionary spending in 2018 compares to current spending levels. It’s worth noting that 2017 spending was set by a stopgap funding measure known as a continuing resolution — the U.S. hasn’t had a proper funding bill in place since 2016. (All these figures are for fiscal years, which run from October through September.)

A few things jump out right away: Military spending gets a big boost. So does the Department of Homeland Security, which would get $2.6 billion to begin construction of Trump’s signature border wall and $314 million to recruit, hire, and train new border patrol and immigration enforcement officers. The biggest cuts would come from the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, particularly foreign aid. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget chief, has described it as a “hard power budget” that emphasizes military strength over diplomacy.

Beyond that, details are scarce. The document released Thursday was just an outline; the full budget — which will include information on taxes, spending on entitlements such as Social Security, economic projections and other topics — probably won’t come until May. And Trump’s outline is particularly light on details; in many cases it calls for reducing funding for programs without specifying by how much. It will be weeks or months before we get a true sense of what government spending will look like in the Trump era.

Ben Casselman is a senior editor and the chief economics writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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