Finley: Let's go ahead and obsess about deficits
The Trump administration's claim that the president's new budget will put the nation on the path to deficit-free spending in 15 years would be more credible if the first four years of his plan didn't include such expansive shortfalls.
The record $4.75 trillion budget Trump introduced Monday anticipates $1.1 trillion deficits in 2019, 2020 and 2021, dropping to $1 trillion 2022.
But don't obsess over those deficits, says White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow. As long as they remain below 5 percent of GDP, we're just fine.
Our nonchalant attitude about bloating the nation's credit card is how we've accumulated such a massive national debt. By the end of those four years of additional credit card spending, the debt will stand at $27 trillion, and interest payments will consume nearly $500 billion annually from the budget.
But a Republican administration says, "Don't worry, keep spending."
Of course, there's no reason to worry about anything in this budget, since Democratic leaders declared it dead on arrival even before it arrived in Congress.
That's typically the case. Most presidential budgets are tossed on the trash heap by lawmakers, who have their own priorities for our tax dollars.
In this case, Trump's budget will be rejected not because it spends too much, but because it spends too little on the things Democrats want.
Most of the spending increase in this budget is for the military and border security; non-defense discretionary spending actually would decrease by 5 percent.
Trump also wants more work requirements for welfare programs, and cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
Those domestic rollbacks are all non-starters, of course. Once a dollar is allocated in Washington, taxpayers never get it back.
So the president's promise of a balanced budget in 15 years relies largely on predictions of robust, continued economic growth that will generate additional tax dollars that Congress will save and not spend. Right.
Hopefully Trump is right in his forecast, but sustaining a growing economy for such a long period seems unlikely.
What is more likely is that this budget, with its request for an additional $8.6 billion for walls on the southern border, will set up yet another government shutdown showdown in October.
Congress is not giving Trump that money. Democratic leaders have already defeated him on the wall issue.
They also aren't giving him this budget. Instead, the nation will get a continuation of the current hodge-podge spending plan, with no strategic vision for bringing expenditures in line with revenue.
The recklessness will go on until the debt gets so heavy the whole economy collapses. Maybe then it will be time to obsess over deficits.
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