Welcome to the Republican rabbit hole of fiscal responsibility.
In 2011, the lugubrious Mitch McConnell warned that our national debt was making us "look a lot like Greece." That same year, freshly installed congressional tea partiers threatened U.S. default unless a vote was held on a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. In 2013, the fictional wonk Paul Ryan sternly cautioned that a "debt crisis" might well be our doom, so naturally he laid out a budget proposal that contained $4.6 trillion of purely imaginary cuts, featuring those famous Ryanesque asterisks. In 2017, Trump proposed a budget that would abolish deficits within 10 years, although his plan was a trifle marred by the dynamic lunacy of wholly unrealistic scoring and, ahem, a $2 trillion arithmetic mistake.
Bogus as all that pseudoconservative blather was, it took place when Republicans still took care to polish their image as the fiscally responsible party. Now, on to reality.
In the fiscal year of 2017 — President Obama's last — the federal government's deficit was $666 billion. In the next fiscal year, entirely under Trump, the deficit is estimated to come in at over $1.1 trillion. Congress' recent budget agreement ensured that, over the next 10 years, our debt will grow by another $1.7 trillion. Then there are those Republican tax cuts, which will add yet another $1.5 trillion to the debt. "All these deficits come atop the preexisting deficits," as the Washington Post's Robert Samuelson reminds us. "Altogether, we face cumulative deficits of about $14 trillion over the decade."
And if the economy collapses, which, under the eminently careless Trump, it's nearly as certain to do as one of his financially busted casinos? Federal revenues will plummet as demands on government assistance soar. $1.4 trillion deficits will seem nostalgic.
Today, Trump will release a 10-year budget plan, and it officially closes the lid on Republicans' carefully polished image of fiscal conservatism. His 2017 plan of deficit abolition? Forgetaboutit. His new plan confesses that when one slashes government revenue and lavishes boodle on the Pentagon, well, let's just say that some budget discrepancies might occur. (The stock market, sensing even more interest-rate hikes, is bound to love this plan, don't you think?)
In classic Trumpian rhetoric of upside-downism, which is not meant to be taken seriously, a White House abstract released last night said the plan "imposes a fiscal discipline on Washington spending that many in today’s political climate reject, yet which remains more important than ever." Sounds austere, right? Calling Paul Ryan and his asterisks. The budget plan "called for spending increases but didn’t detail a single area it planned to propose cutting."
This isn't just Trump. Dishonesty and flimflammery permeate his party. Last week, Rand Paul briefly filibustered the costly new budget plan — and for reasons I have yet to comprehend, for this, he was lauded. There he was, courageously battling fiscal recklessness. Yet he had voted for those tax cuts that would add hundred of billions to our debt. And yesterday on "Face the Nation," the head of the supposedly ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, said of the recently passed budget deal, "The swamp won." But he too had voted to drown us in government-starved debt.
Under Republican rule this massive debt has been, of course, inevitable, even logical. For decades Republicans have treasured huge tax cuts while favoring much higher defense spending, both of which are incompatible with lower deficits, or balanced budgets, or ever retiring the debt. Their fiscal humbug began under Reagan, I needn't remind you. Now, the jig is up. With his 10-year budget plan, Trump, who owns the party, is conceding it was all a charade. With his unshakable base and consequent political impunity, he is free to openly admit what everyone has known for years: The Republican Party is the party of debt.