The Republican Party, led by self-proclaimed “King of Debt” Donald Trump, is embracing fiscal profligacy on an epic scale. First, the Trump Republicans broke their promise of “revenue-neutral tax reform” and instead rammed through a bill that will grow deficits by at least $1.5 trillion last December. Now they’ve struck a deal with Senate Democrats that, combined with the tax bill, would add more than $3 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. It’s a one-two gut punch to fiscal responsibility.
It’s regrettable that Senate Democrats have made themselves complicit in the Republican raid on the U.S. Treasury. Yes, this deal would avoid a federal shutdown, which is a good thing. But the pricetag is simply too steep. We support funding disaster relief, health care programs and other critical public investments, and we support adequate defense spending as well. But we’re against unnecessary borrowing to pay for it, which represents an abdication of Congress’s core Constitutional responsibility: paying for government without passing the bill to the next generation.
From the Brownback debacle in Kansas to the tax bill and this latest budget deal, Republicans are proving to be the most reckless and incompetent managers of public finances. All their fiscal posturing and brinksmanship during the Obama years stands exposed as rank hypocrisy. But Democrats can’t effectively make that case to voters if they join in a bipartisan conspiracy against fiscal discipline in Washington.
It would be one thing if this budget deal merely repealed the sequester, which was never meant to take effect and has hamstrung important investments in both defense and domestic initiatives. The Senate budget deal, however, would raise spending above the original levels agreed to by both parties in the Budget Control Act of 2011. It would also cut taxes for corporations by an additional $17 billion and repeal important cost-control measures imposed by the Affordable Care Act – all without paying for them.
If policymakers are going to abandon the BCA, they need to replace it with another plan for controlling America’s massive public debt. The Senate deal places America on the fast track to trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. That’s the opposite of the fiscal policy our country needs today. When the economy is expanding, we should be unwinding the debt, not using the threat of a government shutdown to make it worse. Otherwise, young Americans will face higher tax and debt payment burdens, and the federal government will have little “fiscal reserve” to tap the next time the economy goes into recession.