Here’s a perfect Labor Day weekend longread for anyone interested in the budget or the dynamics of the Trump White House: Politico’s Michael Grunwald profiles Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget director.
“Republicans have said for years that government should only take people’s money to provide absolutely vital services, but Mulvaney truly believes it—and as the head of the powerful Office of Management and Budget, he’s got the perfect job to try to act on it,” Grunwald writes.
Some key takeaways from the piece:
- Mulvaney tells how he tried to get Trump to reform Social Security and Medicare, but the president refused. Trump went along with about $70 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability insurance after Mulvaney described the program as welfare.
- The OMB director “says he plans to keep pressing for Medicare and Social Security retirement reforms, even if Trump keeps shooting him down.”
- Mulvaney, who helped start the House Freedom Caucus, proposed calling the group the Reasonable Nutjob Caucus and cheerfully introduced himself to White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn as a “right-wing nutjob.” He keeps a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in his office.
- He acknowledges that working for Trump, not exactly a movement conservative, in a West Wing full of conflicting ideologies has been an adjustment: “My friends tell me, Mulvaney, you’re the hard-core right-winger, you’re dealing with a president who’s not on the same page all the time, you must be losing all the time. I’m like, well, at least I’m losing at the very highest levels!”
- He may not win every battle, but Mulvaney wields plenty of influence in driving the administration’s efforts to cut government spending and regulations, and he wrote Trump’s budget, which included steep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. And he won a fight to limit proposed increases in Trump’s defense spending to $54 billion, well shy of the $100 billion Steve Bannon and some at the Pentagon had sought.
- Mulvaney’s budget, and some of the gimmicks it used, were slammed on Capitol Hill — and undercut his support among OMB analysts. Some “feel like he is conscripting them into a partisan crusade to dismantle government, while trashing the technocratic norms he pledged to uphold,” Grunwald writes. “[A] lot of us feel nauseous about what he’s doing,” one unnamed OMB analyst says. Another adds: “Presidents always play games with budgets, but never to this extent.”
Grunwald has much more on Mulvaney and his efforts to transform federal spending. Read the full, roughly 13,000 word profile here.