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President-elect Trump is nearly finished filling out his Cabinet. One of the remaining spots — and in my opinion, the most important — remains undecided. The position in question? The director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The individuals who serve in Trump’s Cabinet will get the opportunity to oversee the agency or department within their specialized domains, like, for example, the Department of Defense, or the Environmental Protection Agency. But unlike those positions, the director of OMB gets the opportunity to keep tabs on each individual government agency.

That’s because OMB is specifically tasked with allocating the federal budget to the various agencies, as well as monitoring agency performance and providing financial management. OMB is also required to, “coordinate and review all significant Federal regulations by executive agencies,” — no easy task for a government that loves to spend money and promulgate never-ending regulations.

Since OMB is also responsible for drafting and formatting the President’s budget, this also allows this office to be intimately involved in all the policy and spending priorities for the entire federal government.  

Although the director of OMB is not treated with the same eminence as those who run the State Department or the Department of Defense, few Cabinet positions are as important as the individual in charge of the budget office for these very reasons.

Some of the individuals chosen to join Trump’s Cabinet are controversial. For example, Trump’s choice for the deputy secretary of state postition, John Bolton, has been met with consternation by many in the liberty movement, such as Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky. (A, 92%) for his stance on issues like bombing Iran and supporting the Iraq war.

Still, conservatives and small-government Republicans should be optimistic about the names currently being floated for director of OMB. The first name floated was former Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn was an astute study of the budget during his days in the Senate, and was referred to by CNN as “a former US Senator from Oklahoma, who turned his Senate career into a crusade against government spending.”

He was also the champion of eliminating government waste, even in programs considered sacrosanct, like the military; he was a long-time advocate of fixing the Pentagon’s broken budget by demanding an audit. But Coburn also made that his mission government-wide, and was well known for publishing detailed reports on government waste.

Another promising name, and small government warrior, that has been mentioned is Congressman Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. (A, 94%).  One of the more conservative members of Congress, he is a member of the Freedom Caucus.

This often means that Mulvaney stands on principle against his own party. For example, when Republican leaders proposed the Bipartisan Budget Act — a bill to hamstring spending restraints by $63 billion — it was Mulvaney that spearheaded opposition to the deal

In addition, Mulvaney has long advocated for a balanced budget, lower taxes, and eliminating corporate cronyism, like the Export-Import bank.

Among some of the other promising names that have been mentioned is David Malpass, a strong conservative economist by training, and a former high-ranking Reagan and George H.W. Bush official. Malpass also shares the list of names with Eric Ueland, a long-time budget staffer on the Senate Budget Committee.

The current list of conservative individuals under consideration for this position deserves more attention than perhaps any time since President Truman took office.  That’s because this OMB director will have a daunting challenge in controlling government spending and debt, more than ever before. Consider the article by the Committee for a Responsible Federal budget, titled, “Trump Will Face Highest Debt-to-GDP Ratio of Any New President Since Truman.”

By our estimates, the national debt will total about 77 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) when Trump takes office, compared to 103 percent when Truman took office at the end of World War II, 58 percent when Eisenhower took office, and 46 percent when Clinton took office.
Federal Debt as percentage of GDP chart

And yet, it’s not even fair to compare the debt under Truman with that of Obama. The debt that materialized under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman was almost solely related to the one-time expenses of fighting World War II. As you can see in the graph, once the war was over, the debts were quickly whittled away. That’s not the case today. Instead, our debts are becoming increasingly structural; the result of promised entitlement spending like Social Security and Medicare.

So really, the task that confronts today’s budget head will be far more daunting than anything that faced Truman. Consider this; by 2021, Social Security and Medicare alone will consume half of every dollar the government brings in. Whereas Truman could allocate surplus dollars to paying down the debt instead of buying tanks, post WWII, the budget director under Trump must decide between taking on more debt and tackling the acrimonious challenge of entitlement reform.

Still, conservatives deserved a good list of names to run what may become the most important office in the White House, and Trump has made a wise selection so far. This is what conservatives fought for. This is where we can make the government small again, and scale back Obama’s absurd regulations.



Editor's note: This article has been updated to fix a typographical error.

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