For all the praise and condemnation of the Trump budget blueprint, too few people acknowledge the reality that Trump’s proposals are merely that — proposals. Congress creates the budget, and the signals coming from the representatives don’t bode well for the prospect of smaller government.
As the details of the budget proposal were first made known this week, the reaction from Republicans and Democrats alike and the media is entirely predictable. It seems no one can stomach cuts to the leviathan government.
The Left and the mainstream media, as always, is declaring the Trump budget a massive attack on the poor. In just one example of the hysteria, what amounts to a (hardly devastating) reduction in taxpayer support for Meals on Wheels will literally kill people, according to the Left.
On the Right, Republicans are once again talking out of both sides of their mouths. They all say that there is a responsibility to get the national debt and federal deficit under control. Yet there’s hell to pay if the budget goes after programs in their back yard.
Take the statement from Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who sits on the House Appropriations Committee.
“While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive,” Rogers said.
“In particular, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has a long-standing history of bipartisan support in Congress because of its proven ability to help reduce poverty rates and extend basic necessities to communities across the Appalachian region.”
Then there’s Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who opposes cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, thinks there are “serious problems” with the budget because it eliminates funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program. And Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C,. are declaring cuts to foreign aid by the State Department “dead on arrival.”
All this anxiety. All this hysteria and hyperbole. And Trump’s skinny budget doesn’t even cut a penny from the $488 billion deficit. It will not address the near-$20 trillion national debt. It doesn’t touch mandatory spending – the entitlement programs that make up two-thirds of the budget and are going bankrupt.
Now, some will make a case that not all deficit spending is equal. The Trump administration favors accompanying these cuts to federal agencies with roll-backs of onerous government regulations to promote economic growth. Still, it takes a long time for these effects to be seen. In the meantime, valuable political capital is lost as the Republican Party will inevitably be accused of deficit hypocrisy.
We can observe this phenomena in the state of Kansas. Governor Sam Brownback initiated a grand “experiment” in tax reform, slashing income and business taxes in his state. Data suggests that the tax cuts are working as designed, but slower than expected. In the short term, state revenues have failed to meet expectations.
The recalcitrant legislature’s refusal to cut spending, along with the state supreme court’s mandates for increased education funds have made Gov. Brownback one of the least popular governors in the country and led to a rout of his conservative allies in the legislature last year.
This story will repeat itself on a national stage should the Republicans betray their platform on spending. (Or break other promises like fully repealing Obamacare.) It is high time that Republicans and Democrats come together, in the interest of all Americans, and put aside petty political considerations to ensure that future generations are not footed with the bill for their grandparents’ selfishness and shortsightedness.
For Democrats, that means conceding that a 74-percent-of-GDP national debt is unsustainable and that not every cut to a wasteful program is apocalyptic. For Republicans, it means having the political courage to give up on their pet pork projects and identify areas of government waste that the GOP traditionally and conveniently avert their eyes from.
The Trump budget adds $54 billion in defense spending. An additional $54 billion — with no oversight to clean up Defense Department waste? That is plain irresponsible. Would an audit of DoD spending be so outrageous?
But it’s not just politicians who share the burden of fiscal responsibility. Real reductions in spending will require a great national sacrifice from those who unjustifiably benefit from cronyism riches. Can we really expect to cut funding for welfare programs yet keep subsidies for Big Business in place? Of course not.
Then there is the media. One of the great difficulties the Trump administration faces is open hostility from the press. And the simple truth is that no Republican administration can cut federal spending without nonstop and brutal chicken-little narratives.
If we are serious about fiscal responsibility, the liberal media needs to stop the hysterics. Stop defending every government program; acknowledge the waste.
The $20 trillion national debt is unsustainable. It will ruin the lives of my generation, and the generations that follow. And politicians, the media, businessmen … indeed, the whole country has abdicated the shared responsibility to future generations.
Is there a way out? There can be, but again, it will require the political courage and true leadership. And those qualities have been lacking in Washington, D.C., for nigh on 30 years now.