President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night lasted an hour and 20 minutes — the third-longest ever, just nine minutes shy of the record. The president touched on a long list of subjects, including immigration, tax cuts, trade, infrastructure, military funding, foreign assistance, national security, the war on terror, Iran and North Korea.
But what Trump didn’t say during his 80 minutes behind the podium also jumped out to some — and not just because he ignored the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections: “A Republican president just gave his first State of the Union speech and he did not spend one sentence on cutting government spending,” New York Times reporter Jim Tankersley tweeted, adding, “Hard to stress how central ‘cutting spending’ had been, pre-Trump, to the GOP prescription for growing the economy.”
And here’s Jonah Goldberg in the National Review:
“This was for the most part a conservative speech culturally and thematically. But except for some laudable bits about streamlining the bureaucracy and improving FDA policy, there wasn’t a hint of fiscal conservatism to it. Trump wants a huge increase in infrastructure spending and an end to the sequester for military spending, but he never mentioned the debt or deficit. Well, there was one mention of the word ‘deficit’ — the ‘infrastructure deficit.’ And he endorsed a new entitlement — paid family leave — while failing to mention any effort to reform the existing entitlements. I’m not sure it matters politically. But I’m pretty sure it does economically and philosophically.”
If the lack of any mention of debt, deficits or spending cuts was striking, it wasn’t necessarily surprising. It was, if anything, perfectly in line with the tenor of recent D.C. discussions about taxes and spending. As the Times’ Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan put it yesterday in a piece under the headline “As Deficit Soars Toward $1 Trillion, Congress Shrugs and Keeps Spending”:
“Fiscal hawks warn that mounting federal debt will ultimately slow economic growth, but Washington shows no signs of paying heed. Congress is poised to dole out billions of dollars for a host of different priorities, and the spending spree is being embraced across party lines.”