Can Mick Mulvaney Still Call Himself a Deficit Hawk?
The Debt

Can Mick Mulvaney Still Call Himself a Deficit Hawk?

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, may have just put out a budget proposal that never reaches balance and that projects more than $7 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years due in part to the GOP tax cuts passed last year. But he still calls himself a deficit hawk. “I will always be a deficit hawk,” Mulvaney said Monday. "I am today, I was yesterday, I will be tomorrow."

The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip suggests Mulvaney might be mixing up his birds. “Mr. Mulvaney is not really a deficit hawk,” Ip writes. “He is a spending hawk, motivated less by an abhorrence of debt than of big government. Small government is a longstanding and principled goal of Republicans. But big government is not why deficits are about to explode. Republicans have already shrunk government quite a lot. And much of the remainder is now off limits: defense, homeland security, veterans, the elderly.”

Ip notes that, even with Congress’ new spending deal, domestic discretionary spending next year — everything besides defense and entitlements — will be 2.8 percent of GDP, matching the lowest level in at least five decades.  At the same time, the Republican tax cuts will reduce federal revenue to 16.3 percent of GDP for fiscal 2019 — “a figure normally seen only around recessions.”

Ip also points out that the big growth in government spending comes from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, in large part as the result of an aging population. But if taxes can’t rise and the bulk of federal spending can’t be touched, Mulvaney’s claim to be a deficit hawk doesn’t really fly.