Up against the clock and with many senior staff positions still vacant, President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget turned to one of the nation’s most conservative think tanks — the Heritage Foundation — for inspiration.
The result: The Trump budget proposal released last week bears a striking resemblance to the Heritage Foundation’s “Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017,” complete with a list of deep spending cuts designed to scale back the size and scope of the federal government.
The Trump administration’s budget document and the Heritage blueprint single out very similar lists of dozens of programs for elimination, including those on international climate, legal aid for the poor, energy research, aid to Appalachia, and insurance for U.S. exporters. And they cite the same reasons, noting for example that rural air service subsidies were meant to be temporary 40 years ago and now keep largely empty planes in the air.
Both documents lean on the same philosophical arguments for a greater role for states and private business, and for a federal government that seeks to get its money’s worth from spending — arguments that have appealed to ultra-conservative multimillion-dollar donors such as the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Richard and Helen De Vos Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation and, more recently, the Mercer Family Foundation. Rebekah A. Mercer, who is close to Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, is a Heritage trustee.
“I don’t think there’s any question. Heritage was the Number 1 source,” Stephen Moore, a senior economic policy expert at Heritage who advised the Trump campaign. “That was partly because there wasn’t a lot of time. They decided ‘we will get rid of this, and get rid of that.’”
“When we were on the campaign, for Trump’s speeches we would pull stuff from Heritage budget documents and make the arguments that Heritage was making,” Moore said. “I think it’s very accurate to say that a lot of these ideas … even some of the arguments they make, some of the rhetoric is almost verbatim from Heritage.”
The article notes that Romina Boccia is the lead author of this year's budget blueprint put out by Heritage. That blueprint, officially released today (March 28) can be found here.
It also notes that the Cato Institute and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) have played a much smaller role in influencing the Trump Administration, and points out that Heritage has an annual budget of more than $80 million, which is equal to the budgets of Cato and AEI combined.
The article suggests that AEI had much more influence during the George W. Bush era, having sent 20 people into that administration.