What will it mean to get rid of the 'administrative state'? Trump’s first budget will offer a glimpse

President Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, asserted a bold goal recently, sounding as if he were pitching a plot of an action thriller: “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Thursday, as Trump releases his first budget, Americans will get a wider glimpse of what exactly that means.

This earliest version of Trump’s spending plan is far from final and will be short of many specifics, but it promises to lay out a vision for a stripped-down federal government that is heavy on defense and far lighter on employees assigned to protect the environment, regulate business, work with foreign governments and provide assistance on things like housing and heating oil that many at the state and local level have long taken for granted.

“You’ll see reductions exactly where you would expect it for a president who just ran on an ‘America first’ campaign,” said Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director. “You’ll see reduction in the State Department. … You’ll see reductions in the EPA. In fact, you’ll see reductions in many agencies as he tries to shrink the role of government, drive efficiencies, go after waste, duplicative programs.”

Briefing reporters Wednesday ahead of the formal budget rollout, Mulvaney offered scant details but said most departments will see cuts ranging from 10% to 12%. Trump has empowered Cabinet secretaries to make significant changes within their departments, he said.

Pledges to reduce the size of government are nothing new, of course. In the U.S., Europe and beyond, conservative leaders over the last generation, from President Reagan and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher to President George W. Bush and Canada’s Stephen Harper, have often talked about shrinking the size of the state, but found the reality more difficult to achieve.

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