On Feb. 9, President Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018) into law. Also known as the Hometown Heroes Act, the bill lived up to its name and successfully addressed a range of issues across party lines. The law’s major contributions include extending government spending for the next two years, raising the debt ceiling, increasing the amount given to disaster relief, and allocating more funds for the military.
For places decimated by last year’s hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria along with the wildfires that ravaged California, the BBA was a major win. The bill provides $90 billion in relief for individuals affected by those natural disasters as well as business entities. For people who lost their homes or businesses that were injured, the government is now in a position to provide compensation. There are also special provisions for aiding the US territory of Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria; which left millions of people without electrical power, running water, and caused massive property damage. Six months later, there is still plenty of work to be done for reconstruction.
In regards to government spending, the BBA raised the debt ceiling until March 2019. This means Congress can continue to borrow money from other countries in the short term. The BBA also overturned spending limits previously imposed by the Obama administration with the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). Obama BCA’s guidelines have been suspended for the next two fiscal years. In essence, the previous administration allowed themselves to only spend up to a certain amount of money and the Trump administration just raised that bar by $296 billion over the next two years.
The BBA can be best described as a two-year contract that will come up for review in 2020. In addition to the $90 billion for disaster relief, the agreement also raised spending limits for defense by $80 billion when the previous cap for the US defense budget for 2018 was $549 billion. According to an analysis conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the defense budget for 2019, which was originally $562 billion, has been elevated by $85 billion.
As for nondefense funding, it has been raised $63 billion for 2018 and $68 billion for 2019 respectively. While defense deals primarily with military programs, nondefense covers a variety of different areas. These involve but are not limited to healthcare and health research, transportation organizations such as air traffic control and the National Highway System, educational programs for disability patients and veterans, and programs for law enforcement nationwide.
When the BBA of 2018 is compared with previous bipartisan budgets of the past decade, it overshadows them due to the amount of money it dishes out. The BBA of 2013 increased defense spending by $32 billion total over two years. That was $16 billion for 2014 and $16 billion again for 2015. The Trump administration’s BBA will spend $80 billion for 2018 and $85 billion on defense spending for 2019. That’s a total of $165 billion in two years compared to $32 billion in two years. And that’s just on defense.
The bill’s passage put an end to the brief government shutdown but also raised new concerns about deficits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation “will increase federal deficits by $342 billion over 10 years, not including increased interest payments on the national debt” according to Heritage.org. The Heritage Foundation called the BBA of 2018 “irresponsible, wasteful, and unaffordable.”
The Heritage Foundation’s report stated, “Unlike past budget deals, which on paper fully paid for increases in the discretionary spending limits, this deal pays for only about one-third of the new discretionary spending.”
The bill will not only raise “spending by more than half a trillion dollars” but also “add another $2 trillion to the national debt in the coming decade if the temporary provisions of this act were made permanent.”
“That’s $16,000 per American household on top of the $162,000 in national debt that American households already owe,” the website states.
“To improve federal budget sustainability, Congress should commit to fiscal responsibility, before the next fiscal crisis threatens to impose severe austerity measures.”
In layman’s terms, critics of the BBA are just saying that Congress needs to manage the country’s money more responsibly.
It has been a month since the BBA passed and since then it has been lauded as a great example of political collaboration; of Democrats and Republicans putting aside their differences in order to help the country in its time of need. But while this legislation may benefit America in the short term, it is less than ideal and will come with more financial consequences in the future.