As expected, US President Trump’s proposed budget is a nightmare for science, the environment, and parts of the technology industry. Welcome to the future, where America’s long national nightmare may not even have the funds to keep chugging along.
While we’ll focus on the the aforementioned areas, it’s important to note that the much of the budget is a slash-and-burn operation. It cuts or eliminates funding for poverty programs, like school meals for poor children and Meals on Wheels. It also cuts the Appalachian Regional Commission, which provides funding to help retrain coal miners who are losing their jobs, among many other functions. Meanwhile, Trump’s budget office director went on Morning Joe to claim that cuts to public broadcasting were justified because “Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mum in Detroit to pay for these programs?” It even goes after the country’s birds.
The only departments that would see an increase are those of Defence, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, the latter of which would get $US2.6 billion ($3.4 billion) to build the border wall, though it could cost 10 times that amount.
An important caveat: This budget proposal, which only covers discretionary spending and is only an outline, almost certainly won’t pass in this form. Even Republicans will likely oppose some of these proposals, like paying for the border wall. But it does give us a very depressing starting point, and it also tells us what the American president thinks is worth cutting, which is to say anything that doesn’t involve a weapon or a soon-to-be-deported immigrant.
Environmental Protection Agency
Overall cuts: $US2.6 billion ($3.4 billion), a 31 per cent decrease.
Clean Power Plan: This program aimed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, by a third by 2030. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, power plants produce more carbon pollution than every car, truck and plane in the US combined. Trump’s budget cuts it entirely.
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: This program monitors water quality and reduces pollution in the Great Lakes. Since it was established in 2009, the program has helped fight invasive species and clean up pollution in the lakes. Trump’s budget eliminates this program.
Energy Star program: The program that created those energy ratings you see on your appliances, helping you choose the most energy efficient ones, is cut in Trump’s budget.
The Office of Research and Management: While this department — which carries out much of the agency’s climate change research — wouldn’t be cut entirely, it would see its funds slashed by $US233 million ($303.7 million).
Department of Energy
Overall cuts: $US1.7 billion ($2.2 billion), a 5.6 per cent decrease.
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy: ARPA-E conducts research into high-risk but potentially high-reward advanced energy projects not funded by the private sector. It would be eliminated because, according to the proposal, "the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies." ARPA-E was designed to emulate the famous DARPA program, which gave us such trifling innovations as the internet. ARPA-E programs include research into modernising the electrical grid and ways to store thermal energy.
Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program: The name doesn't tell you much, but this program provides loan guarantees for green energy projects. It would be eliminated under Trump's proposal.
Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program: This initiative provides loans for advanced technology in vehicles. Companies like Ford and Nissan use the loans to create jobs in upgrading their fuel efficiency standards, according to supporters. Among those supporters, at least in 2008: Elon Musk's Tesla. We wonder if he'll mention this at the next roundtable.
State Energy Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program: The State Energy Program provides funding for US states to improve energy efficiency. According to the National Association of State Energy Officials, each $US1 ($1.30) spent by the program leads to energy cost savings of $US7.22 ($9.41). It would be eliminated "to reduce Federal intervention in State-level energy policy and implementation".
The Weatherization Assistance Program falls under the State Energy Program, and is specifically targeted for cuts under the proposal. Formed in 1976, the WAP provides grants to US states for the weatherproofing of homes, which improves energy efficiency for low-income families.
Office of Science: While the proposal isn't specific, and says it will ensure "the Office of Science continues to invest in the highest priority basic science and energy research and development", it also says its proposal represents $US900 million ($1.1 billion) in "savings" on last year's budget. That sounds like a cut to us.
One area that isn't being cut: $US120 million ($156.4 million) to restart licensing for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, a controversial plan to store nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Part of the Department of Commerce, the NOAA budget includes a $US250 million ($325.9 million) cut. The plan would end the Sea Grant, which provides $US73 million ($95.2 million) in research grants. According to the Washington Post, cuts to the NOAA's satellites, which provide data on weather, climate and oceans, "also appear likely to be substantial." NOAA also collects climate change data.
Department of Health and Human Services
Overall cuts: $US15.1 billion ($19.7 billion), a 17.9 per cent decrease.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): This provides grants to help low-income Americans pay for energy costs, including the elderly, the disabled, and Native Americans. Trump's budget would end it entirely.
National Institutes of Health: The agency that conducts and provides grants for medical research, which have led to breakthroughs across countless areas of medicine, sees a 20 per cent cut. Trump supporter Newt Gingrich called for doubling NIH's budget two years ago, but don't hold your breath for him to take much of a stand on this.
Nursing: The proposal eliminates $US403 million ($525.3 million) in health professions and nursing training programs.
Department of Transportation
Overall cuts: $US2.4 billion ($3.1 billion), a 13 per cent decrease.
Essential Air Service Program: This program would be eliminated entirely. It ensures that rural areas are served by "a minimal level of air service"; about a third of those areas are in Alaska.
TIGER grants: Unfortunately unrelated to flying tigers, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants were part of the 2009 stimulus package. State and local agencies apply for funding for local transportation projects through the program, for everything from roads to bus shelters. Trump's budget would end the program.
Federal Aviation Administration: The budget includes a proposal to privatise the FAA, which would turn it over to a non-governmental non-profit corporation.
Department of Agriculture
Overall cuts: $US4.7 billion ($6.1 billion), a 21 per cent decrease.
Waste and Wastewater loan and grant program: A $US498 million ($649.2 million) program to fund clean water and sewer systems in rural areas with fewer than 10,000 people and in tribal areas, this program would be ended. It funds construction or improvement for drinking water, sewer collection and waste collection.
Department of State
Overall cuts: $US10.1 billion ($13.2 billion), a 28 per cent decrease.
Global Climate Change Initiative: This is a program under USAID, which helps developing countries adopt clean energy and prepare for the effects of climate change; these countries will be among those who see the biggest humanitarian disasters as a result of climate change. The proposal calls for an end to both this program and to payments to UN climate programs.
Department of the Interior
Overall cuts: $US1.5 billion ($2 billion), a 12 per cent decrease.
National Heritage Areas: This program provides funding to preserve areas "where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes", from the Gullah Geechee Corridor in South Carolina to Nevada's Great Basin. The National Park Service partners with these communities to support restoration projects, education and recreation.
Reducing land acquisition: The budget calls for a $US120 million ($156.4 million) reduction in the acquisition of new federal lands.
National Wildlife Refuge: The proposal would eliminate funding for the National Wildlife Refuge, a 114 year old program, saying it's "duplicative of other payment programs". Just yesterday, Trump's Secretary of the Interior celebrated the program, saying the refuges are "an incredible asset to the national economy" and "offer a place where families can carry on cherished outdoor traditions while making the important connection between people and nature".
Overall cuts: Roughly $US150 million ($195.5 million), a 0.8 per cent decrease.
Office of Education: The budget would eliminate the $US1.5 million ($2 million) Office of Education, which runs enrichment programs and provides internships and scholarships.
Earth Science: The budget cuts four Earth science missions, all of which are largely focused on the impact of climate change: PACE, which monitors the health of Earth's oceans; Orbiting Carbon Observatory -- 3, which measures carbon in the atmosphere; the Deep Space Climate Observatory, which monitors solar wind (changes in which can have catastrophic effects on infrastructure); and CLARREO Pathfinder, which helps produce climate records.
Department of Homeland Security
Overall increase: $US2.8 billion ($3.7 billion), a 6.8 per cent increase.
While the DHS budget would increase overall -- including $US1.5 billion ($2 billion) for cybersecurity for federal networks and critical infrastructure -- some programs will be cut.
Federal Emergency Management Agency: Several FEMA programs would be cut, including $US190 million ($247.7 million) for flood hazard mapping (a hazard that will only grow as climate change worsens, of course). It includes a $US668 million ($870.8 million) overall cut to state and local grant funding through FEMA, including the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which helps communities reduce the risk of hazards associated with natural disasters.
Transportation Security Administration: The agency sees an $US80 million ($104.3 million) cut, including the flawed Behaviour Detection Officer Program. It would also raise the Passenger Security Fee, which is currently $US5.60 ($7.30) per trip.
Perhaps the US president can mull over the drastic reductions while he scampers away to Mar-a-Lago, trips to which have already cost Americans millions.