Washington, Mar 10 (AP/UNB) — The federal budget deficit is ballooning on President Donald Trump's watch and few in Washington seem to care.
And even if they did, the political dynamics that enabled bipartisan deficit-cutting deals decades ago has disappeared, replaced by bitter partisanship and chronic dysfunction.
That's the reality that will greet Trump's latest budget , which will promptly be shelved after landing with a thud on Monday. Like previous spending blueprints, Trump's plan for the 2020 budget year will propose cuts to many domestic programs favored by lawmakers in both parties but leave alone politically popular retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
Washington probably will devote months to wrestling over erasing the last remnants of a failed 2011 budget deal that would otherwise cut core Pentagon operations by $71 billion and domestic agencies and foreign aid by $55 billion. Top lawmakers are pushing for a reprise of three prior deals to use spending cuts or new revenues and prop up additional spending rather than defray deficits that are again approaching $1 trillion.
It's put deficit hawks in a gloomy mood.
"The president doesn't care. The leadership of the Democratic Party doesn't care," said former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "And social media is in stampede mode."
Trump's budget arrives as the latest Treasury Department figures show a 77 percent spike in the deficit over the first four months of the budget year, driven by falling revenues and steady growth in spending.
Trump's 2017 tax cut bears much of the blame, along with sharp increases in spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies and the growing federal retirement costs of the baby boom generation. Promises that the tax cut would stir so much economic growth that it would mostly pay for itself have been proved woefully wrong.
Trump's upcoming budget, however, won't address any of the main factors behind the growing, intractable deficits that have driven the U.S. debt above $22 trillion. Its most striking proposed cuts — to domestic agency operations — were rejected when tea party Republicans controlled the House, and they face equally grim prospects now that Democrats are in the majority.
Trump has given no indication he's much interested in the deficit and he's rejected any idea of curbing Medicare or Social Security, the massive federal retirement programs whose imbalances are the chief deficit drivers.
An administration official said Friday that the president's plan promises to balance the budget in 15 years. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss specifics about the budget before the document's official release and spoke on condition of anonymity
Democrats have witnessed the retirement of a generation of lawmakers who came up in the 1980s and 1990s and negotiated deficit-cutting deals in 1990 and 1993. But those agreements came at significant political cost to both President George H.W. Bush, who lost re-election, and President Bill Clinton, whose party lost control of Congress in 1995.
But the moderate wing of the Democratic Party has withered with the electoral wipeout of "Blue Dog" Democrats at the hands of tea party forces over recent election cycles.
"Concern about the deficit is so woefully out of fashion that it's hard to even imagine it coming back into fashion," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., one of his party's few remaining deficit hawks. "This is as out of fashion as bell bottoms."
While in control of the House, Republicans used to generate nonbinding budget blueprints that promised to balance the federal ledger by relying on a controversial plan to eventually transform Medicare into a voucher-like program. But they never pursued follow-up legislation that would actually do it.
Republicans, who seized Congress more than two decades ago promising and ultimately achieving balanced budgets during the Clinton administration, have instead focused on two major rounds of tax cuts during the Trump era and the administration of President George W. Bush in 2001.
Nor are Republicans willing to consider tough deficit-cutting steps such as higher taxes or Pentagon budget cuts. Leading Democratic presidential contenders talk of "Medicare for All" and increasing Social Security benefits instead of curbing them.
"You have to get pretty damn serious about revenue as well as defense spending, and those are two things the Republicans don't want to bring into the conversation," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "My Democratic friends who talk about expansion of benefits. I've told them to 'get real.'"
Trump has never gone to the mat for his plan to slash domestic spending such as renewable energy programs.
"If Trump can be criticized I think the perception has been that he has not fought for the spending cuts that he's proposed," said former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "There's no upside to trying to cut anything. There's no political reward. But if you cut something there's a lot of political downside."
Neither is there any reservoir of the political will and bipartisan trust required to take the political heat for the tough steps it would take to rein in deficits. And it's not like voters are clamoring for action.
"There's been very little dialogue in the last several years about debt and deficit and how to really be able to address it," said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. "It just never came up" in the 2016 election. "It still doesn't come up."
The deficit registered $714 billion during Trump's first year in office but is projected to hit about $900 billion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which says Trump's tax cut will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.
"One of the short-term goals should be — I know it's not a lofty goal — stopping things from getting a lot worse. It's something the Republicans obviously were unable to do. That's a low bar, but they couldn't meet a low bar," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
New York, Mar 10 (AP/UNB) — Severe turbulence injured 30 people aboard a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul that landed safely at New York's Kennedy International Airport on Saturday afternoon, officials said.
Spokesman Steve Coleman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told The Associated Press that 28 people were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center after the plane touched down at 5:35 p.m. Two people were taken to Queens Hospital Medical Center. Most suffered minor injuries, including bumps, bruises and cuts. One had a broken leg.
Coleman said the passengers and some crew members were first treated inside an airport terminal.
Turkish Airlines Flight 1 encountered the turbulence about 45 minutes before landing at JFK, Coleman said. The crew reported the injuries and declared an emergency while still in the air, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Port Authority spokesman said other airport operations were not affected.
An emergency was declared after the Boeing 777 landed, with a dozen ambulances waiting at Terminal 1, but the Fire Department of New York said none of the injuries were life-threatening.
The plane was carrying more than 300 passengers and crew members. Turkish Airlines officials were not immediately available for comment.
It was the second mishap involving a plane in the New York metropolitan area.
Earlier Saturday, Newark Airport temporarily closed its runways after a flight from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale made an emergency landing with smoke in its cargo hold .
The National Weather Service had issued advisories on Saturday warning pilots of expected turbulence.
Mexico City, Mar 10 (AP/UNB) — Armed men burst into a bar early Saturday in the central city of Salamanca and opened fire, killing more than a dozen people, Mexican media reported.
The pre-dawn shootings were said to have taken place at La Playa Men's Club, located in the western part of the city.
Initial reports ranged from 13 to 15 people slain. The national newspaper Reforma cited Sophia Huett Lopez, Guanajuato state government commissioner for security analysis, as confirming 15 dead.
Several more were wounded.
Guanajuato state police and prosecutors did not immediately comment publicly, and phone calls to the state police media relations office rang unanswered.
Also Saturday, shootouts between soldiers and presumed organized crime members left a toll of six dead in and around the northern city of Nuevo Laredo, which borders Texas.
Tamaulipas state's security department reported that the first confrontation took place before dawn on the city's outskirts. A civilian was killed and authorities seized high-power weapons, ammunition and vehicles.
Two hours later the second shootout erupted that prompted authorities to close part of the highway between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. Five gunmen were killed, and agents recovered firearms, cartridges tactical vests and more vehicles.
The area is controlled by the Northeast cartel, which splintered from the Zetas gang and has been warring with its remnants since 2014 in Tamaulipas and other nearby states.
Beauregard, Mar 9 (AP/UNB) — Standing near the slab that's all that is left of one family's garage, President Donald Trump on Friday surveyed the devastation wrought by a powerful tornado that ripped through a rural Alabama town, uprooting trees, tearing homes from their foundations and killing nearly two dozen people.
"We saw things that you wouldn't believe," said Trump, overlooking a debris field strewn with branches and other wreckage in Beauregard, which bore the brunt of Sunday's storm. Mangled metal siding, wood planks, piping and electric wires lay strewn on the ground, along with remnants of everyday life: clothing, a sofa, a bottle of Lysol cleaner and a welcome mat encrusted with dirt.
Trump and the first lady spent the afternoon meeting with survivors, victims' families and volunteers trying to rebuild after the massive tornado carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide, killing 23 people, including four children and a couple in their 80s, with ten victims belonging to a single extended family.
The trip was a familiar one for Trump, who, now in the third year of his presidency, has traveled to the sites of numerous disasters and tragedies, including hurricanes, shootings and wildfires.
The day began with an aerial survey of the area by helicopter, which flew over swaths of land where trees had been flattened. Trump and his wife, Melania, also visited a church serving as a makeshift disaster relief center for survivors. He later observed a moment of silence before white wooden crosses commemorating each of the victims.
Head bowed, Trump and his wife held hands as they paused in front of each of the markers. Trump shook his head as he stood in front of one, which had been decorated with a tiny pair of children's sneakers.
Trump has, at times, struggled with his role as consoler-in-chief during trips to survey damage and meet with tragedy victims. He memorably tossed paper towels into a crowd as he surveyed damage following hurricanes in Puerto Rico — a move that some saw as inappropriate given the circumstances — and marveled at a yacht that floodwaters had deposited on a family's property during a trip to the Carolinas.
"At least you got a nice boat out of the deal," Trump told the family. He was caught on camera telling a person to whom he had just handed food to "have a good time."
This time, however, Trump appeared to avoid any such distractions aside from some hubbub caused by his decision to sign Bibles, which Providence Baptist Church had been distributing, along with clothing and other supplies, including diapers, toiletries and personal care products.
Before signing autographs or posing for photos with the volunteers there, Trump thanked law enforcement officials and other first responders, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is assisting state and local response efforts.
"I wanted to come the day it happened," he said, adding that Gov. Kay Ivey had asked him to wait.
Before leaving the church, Trump posed for a photograph with a fifth-grade volunteer and signed the child's Bible, said Ada Ingram, a local volunteer. Ingram said the president also signed her sister's Bible.
The pastor, Rusty Sowell, said the president's visit was uplifting and will help bring attention to a community that will need a long time to recover.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Sowell said.
Earlier, Trump spent time with three families who lost loved ones, hearing their stories and dispensing hugs. He also met privately with survivors and family members, including a woman mourning the loss of 10 relatives.
"What they've been through is incredible," Trump said after emerging from the meeting.
Before Trump arrived in Beauregard, Renee Frazier stood amid bricks and lumber that used to be her mother's home and waved as the helicopter carrying Trump passed overhead. Minutes before, Frazier, whose mother survived the tornado, had been arguing with relatives who opposed Trump's visit, calling it more about politics than compassion.
"I want the president here to see what happened to my mom's house," she said. "I want him right here on this land because my mom is about love and unity."
Down the road, where several people died, Trump supporter Bobby Spann said he hoped the president had learned "how to be a Southerner and how to respect people" during his brief visit.
Spann said he also hoped Trump realized how much help is needed.
"Houses need to be replaced. You can't help the dead folks, but you can try to help the ones that's still living," said Spann, chewing on a yellowroot twig. The tornado had partially peeled away the roof of Spann's mobile home.
Trump had said before the visit that he'd instructed FEMA to give Alabama "the A Plus treatment" as it recovers — rhetoric that stood in contrast to Trump's response to disasters on less politically friendly territory. Alabama supported Trump by a wide margin in the 2016 presidential election, and he carried about 60 percent of the vote in Lee County, where Beauregard is located. Blue Trump flags flying outside homes are a frequent sight in the town, and many were seen waving Friday.
In the months after wildfires scorched California, a Democrat-led state that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump threatened to cut off federal aid unless the state embraced forest management policies he championed.
He also engaged in a sustained back-and-forth with lawmakers from hurricane-whipped Puerto Rico, whose pro-statehood governor identifies as a Democrat. Trump repeatedly blamed the U.S. territory for its problems and noted how much money recovery efforts had cost the federal government.
The administration also considered redirecting disaster aid from those places to pay for Trump's long-promised border wall but ultimately decided to target other funding sources.
New York, Mar 9 (AP/UNB) — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Friday rolled out a proposal to break up the biggest U.S. technology companies, saying they have too much control over the economy and Americans' lives.
In her pitch to rein in the influence of tech giants, the Massachusetts senator envisions legislation targeting companies with annual worldwide revenue of $25 billion or more, limiting their ability to expand and forcing parts of Google and Amazon's current business structure to operate as separate entities.
As president, Warren said she would pick regulators who would seek to break up what she called "anti-competitive mergers" such as Facebook's recent purchase of Instagram and Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods.
She made the pitch ahead of a rousing town hall appearance Friday in the New York City neighborhood where Amazon recently scrapped plans to open a new headquarters.
It's Warren's latest effort to shape the policy agenda for the rest of the Democratic presidential primary, coming after earlier announcements of a "wealth tax" plan on households with high net worth and a universal child care proposal.
Her tech agenda, coming at a time of rising public concern about the growing power of the dominant players, could force the rest of her rivals for the 2020 nomination to follow her lead.
During remarks before a crowd of more than 1,000 people in Queens, Warren touted elements of her new tech-industry plan as part of her stump speech. She took aim at Amazon's search for lavish economic incentives from cities competing for its headquarters, likening the company's efforts to pit areas against each other to the dystopian film "The Hunger Games."
"That's what's wrong with the system. It's not just that big tech companies like Amazon have enormous market power, which they do. They have enormous political power," Warren told the audience, describing the industry's lobbying expenditures as a "good return on investment if they can keep Washington from enforcing the antitrust laws."
It remains to be seen whether Warren will introduce legislation in the current Congress aligning with the first element of her plan. A spokeswoman, Kristen Orthman, said a bill introduction was not imminent.
Warren's latest policy proposal also promised to be a central element of her scheduled visit Saturday to the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California represents the tech industry's home state, while Sen. Cory Booker has come under scrutiny for his past ties to tech companies — though he's stepped up his criticism of the industry in recent years.
Facebook spokeswoman Monique Hall said the company had no comment on Warren's proposal. Representatives for Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.