Voters Don’t Know It Yet, But The Worst Chink In Trump’s Armor Will Be His Disastrous Handling Of The Economy

Written by on March 11, 2019

The day after April Fool’s Day, 2016, Trump was still playing us for fools. He was bellowing about how he and only he could get rid of the national debt. Instead his deficits have ballooned into the stratosphere, primarily because of tax cuts for corporations and for the super-wealthy and because of an attitude– which he even expressed aloud– akin to Louis XIV’s Après moi, le déluge. In private he says all the deficits he’s running up will be his successors’ problems and that he won’t be around to see any of it anyway. Even publicly his attitude can best be described as cavalier– claiming we can just keep borrowing and that the country could get out of it the same way he always did in private life” or… just print money. “I’ve borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts,” he explained. “I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.”

Paul Brandus reminded MarketWatch Friday that Trump “took office vowing to eliminate the entire national debt in eight years, but it has only gotten worse, thanks to the skyrocketing budget deficit. In turn– and this is the unanticipated or unintended effect on something else– it has made the trade deficit worse as well. The Census Bureau said Wednesday that the trade deficit for goods soared to an all-time high in 2018: a whopping $891 billion.”

When Trump took office, the national debt was $20.24 trillion. By the end of Trump’s first full fiscal year– Sept. 30, 2018– it had jumped more than 5% to $21.51 trillion… and that has been accelerating: “In the first five months of the current fiscal year (through Feb. 28), it has jumped nearly 2.8% more, to $22.11 trillion… By fiscal year 2028, which begins Oct. 1, 2027, the debt is projected to be– hold on– $33 trillion… [F]ailure to grasp even basic Econ 101 hasn’t stopped Trump from telling his base– or them believing him– that everything’s going great. He keeps talking about the how the economy is growing like gangbusters. Here, his grasp of reality falls short again: GDP did grow at an impressive 4.2% pace in the second quarter of 2018, but that was then. It slowed to a 2.6% pace by the end of last year, and a recent survey of economists by the Wall Street Journal forecasts a growth rate of 2.0% for the first quarter of this year. We are shifting into a lower gear whether Trump– or his base– believes it or not.”

Yesterday, the Associated Press ran a piece that the budget deficit is ballooning and that almost no one in DC cares. The writer, Andrew Taylor, is confused– very confused. “[E]ven if they did [care],” he wrote, “the political dynamics that enabled bipartisan deficit-cutting deals decades ago has disappeared, replaced by bitter partisanship and chronic dysfunction.” That way of thinking is what has gotten us, as a society, into trouble. It isn’t bipartisan deficit-cutting deals” that we need right now– quite the contrary. Taylor, an antiquated budget hawk kind of guy, moans that “Trump has given no indication he’s much interested in the deficit and he’s rejected any idea of curbing Medicare or Social Security, the massive federal retirement programs whose imbalances are the chief deficit drivers.” Stupidest, stultified thinking imaginable. I mean– worse than even Trump!

The old way of doing things would be for Republicans to break the bank with military spending, special interest coddling and big tax breaks for the rich– with a “deficits don’t matter” attitudes. That would be followed by recession or worse and then Democrats coming into power with a tepid attitude of paying off the Republicans’ debts while doing nothing for their base– while Republicans screamed about deficits– and then another cycle of Republican control.

Deficits really don’t matter… IF the deficits are caused by borrowing and that money is deployed to empower society: infrastructure, human capital… a Green New Deal, free state universities, more equality… That’s what makes a society strong and healthy, vibrant and productive. The Republicans never understood that and the Democrats lost that understanding when Bill Clinton led them, as a party, into selling their souls.

Today, Trump’s new budget is DOA– lot of spending cuts to popular domestic programs to pay for another $8.6 billion for more of his vanity wall and increases in the military budget. What Taylor is right about is that “Trump’s 2017 tax cut bears much of the blame… Promises that the tax cut would stir so much economic growth that it would mostly pay for itself have been proved woefully wrong. Trump’s upcoming budget, however, won’t address any of the main factors behind the growing, intractable deficits that have driven the U.S. debt above $22 trillion. Its most striking proposed cuts– to domestic agency operations– were rejected when tea party Republicans controlled the House, and they face equally grim prospects now that Democrats are in the majority.”

Taylor then digs up a brainless Democrat just like him who would LOVE to cut Medicare and Social Security, just like he does– Tennessee Blue Dog Jim Cooper, a political anachronism. “Concern about the deficit is so woefully out of fashion that it’s hard to even imagine it coming back into fashion. This is as out of fashion as bell bottoms.” Cooper is an arch conservative across the board, representing a very progressive district. They should have dumped his ass years before Ocasio wiped out Joe Crowley. The PVI in his Nashville-based district is D+7. Obama beat McCain 57.5% to 41.3%, then beat Romney 55.9% to 42.5%. Even Hillary prevailed there, beating Trump 56.5% to a pitiful 38.2%. This is not a district that needs a backward-looking Blue Dog pining for bell bottoms like Cooper.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he agrees– quietly– with Taylor’s sick and sickening dream: “While in charge of the House, Republicans used to generate nonbinding budget blueprints that promised to balance the federal ledger by relying on a controversial plan to eventually transform Medicare into a voucher-like program. But they never pursued follow-up legislation that would actually do it… Leading Democratic presidential contenders talk of ‘Medicare for All’ and increasing Social Security benefits instead of curbing them.”

Taylor brings some of the old doggies from a prehistoric world into the conversation:

“You have to get pretty damn serious about revenue as well as defense spending, and those are two things the Republicans don’t want to bring into the conversation,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) “My Democratic friends who talk about expansion of benefits. I’ve told them to ‘get real.’”

Trump has never gone to the mat for his plan to slash domestic spending such as renewable energy programs.

“If Trump can be criticized I think the perception has been that he has not fought for the spending cuts that he’s proposed,” said former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). “There’s no upside to trying to cut anything. There’s no political reward. But if you cut something there’s a lot of political downside.”

Neither is there any reservoir of the political will and bipartisan trust required to take the political heat for the tough steps it would take to rein in deficits. And it’s not like voters are clamoring for action.

Looks like voters are a lot smarter than Taylor and his political chorus. Politico yesterday afternoon: Trump’s budget will “stoke fresh fears of another government shutdown” as presents “an audacious plan for sucking 5 percent from the budgets of non-military arms of the federal government, while using an accounting trick to bust beyond set spending limits for defense programs. The 5 percent would be below the fiscal 2019 budget limits for domestic agencies. Trump in his budget proposal is expected to rekindle partisan feuds with an $8.6 billion request for the border wall. The administration also will project robust economic growth above 3 percent, propose taking longer to balance the books than Republicans have advocated in the past and seek funding for a new Space Force within the Air Force.”

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