Trump Clearly Has No Problem with Debt and Deficits

Trump Clearly Has No Problem with Debt and Deficits

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A self-proclaimed “king of debt,” President Trump has produced a budget that promises red ink as far as the eye can see. With last year's $1.5 trillion tax cut reducing revenues, the White House gave up even trying to pretend that its budget would balance anytime soon, and even the rosy economic projections contained in the budget couldn’t produce enough revenues, however fanciful, to cover the shortfall.

The Trump budget spends as much over 10 years as any budget produced by President Barack Obama, according to Jim Tankersley of The New York Times. And it projects total deficits of more than $7 trillion over the next decade — "a number that could double if the administration turns out to be overestimating economic growth and if the $3 trillion in spending cuts the White House has floated do not materialize in Congress,” Tankersley says.

Trump — who once promised to both balance the budget and pay down the national debt — isn’t the only one throwing off the shackles of fiscal restraint. Republicans as a whole appear to be embracing a new set of economic preferences defined by lower taxes and higher spending, in what Bloomberg describes as a “striking turnabout” in attitudes toward deficits and the national debt.

But some conservatives tell Tankersley that the GOP's core beliefs on spending and debt remain intact — and that spending on Social Security and Medicare, the primary drivers of the national debt, are all that matters when it comes to implementing fiscal restraint. 

“They know that right now, a fundamental reform of entitlements won’t happen," John H. Cochrane, an economist at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, tells Tankersley. "So, they have avoided weekly chaos and gotten needed military spending through by opening the spending bill, and they got an important reduction in growth-distorting marginal corporate rates through by accepting a bit more deficits. They know that can’t be the end of the story.”

Democrats, of course, have warned that the next chapter in the tale will involve big cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Even before we get there, though, Tankersley questions whether the GOP approach stands up to scrutiny: "This is a bit like saying, only regular exercise will keep America from having a fatal heart attack, so, you know, it's ok to eat a few more hamburgers now."