EDITORIAL: GOP budget shows deficit attention disorder
Remember the Obama administration, when congressional Republicans wouldn’t approve a penny of additional spending without offsetting budget cuts elsewhere?
Yeah, neither do congressional Republicans.
Hot on the heels of a GOP tax cut that fixes to add up to $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit and a two-year bipartisan budget agreement that would boost spending by another $300 billion comes the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 spending plan.
As GOP deity Ronald Reagan used to say, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The $4.4 trillion budget proposal would add some $7 trillion to the nation’s deficit over the coming decade. There’s not even a pretense to balancing the numbers. (Which may be just as well, since the gimmick employed by Republicans to keep their rich-get-richer tax cuts affordable enough to pass on a party-line vote was to phase out the relatively miniscule middle-class tax cuts.)
That the administration doesn’t even try to balance the budget is, of course, not the fault of the administration, claims Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. He blames Congress for not making “any of the large structural changes” he suggested last year.
OK but, again, both houses of Congress, like the White House, are in Republican control. And Republicans for years campaigned as the party of fiscal conservatism, led by Tea Party-backed firebrands like … former House member Mick Mulvaney.
Did Republican office holders suddenly tear up their pledges to anti-tax guru Grover Norquist en masse?
We’re not saying that running against any new spending while a Democratic president was in office and then turning on the fiscal spigots once their own party took the Oval Office makes congressional Republicans hypocritical. But one of their own is.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who employed a stalling tactic this month that temporarily shut down the federal government in protest of the two-year budget agreement, is blasting his fellow Republicans.
"I voted for the tax cuts and I voted for spending cuts,” Paul said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The people who voted for tax cuts and spending increases — I think there is some hypocrisy there and it shows they're not serious about the debt."
Of course, it’s not like Republicans have abandoned spending cuts entirely. Just look at the reductions in the Trump budget proposal:
- Medicare: Cut more than $550 billion.
- Medicaid: Cut more than $250 billion.
- Environmental Protection Agency: Cut by a third.
- Health and Human Services: Cut more than 20 percent.
- Housing and Urban Development: Cut 14 percent.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known informally as the food stamp program): Cut more than $210 billion. And get this: Those receiving more than $90 a month in aid would get half their benefits in the form of government-selected food packages. You don’t like beans and pasta? Tough! That’s what you get. You do like fresh fruit and vegetables? Also tough! They’re not included.
The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Legal Services Corporation (which provides legal assistance to the poor), International Space Station funding, and a host of other programs and agencies would be entirely eliminated.
The silver lining, of course, is that presidential spending proposals never see the light of day. The gathering clouds, however, are that congressional Republicans share many of the spending-cut priorities outlined in the Trump plan. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, has made no secret of the fact he can’t wait to start carving up Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
And ironically, Republicans will point to the skyrocketing deficits of their own creation to justify calls for reductions in domestic program spending.
But should these types of cuts come — and they shouldn’t — they will do little to ameliorate the biggest splurge in non-recession spending that has come out of Washington in generations, almost all of it courtesy of those hypocrites in deficit hawks’ clothing, congressional Republicans.