The federal budget deficit is ballooning on President Donald Trump’s watch and few in Washington seem to care.
And even if they did, the political dynamics that enabled bipartisan deficit-cutting deals decades ago has disappeared, replaced by bitter partisanship and chronic dysfunction.
That’s the reality that will greet Trump’s latest budget , which will promptly be shelved after landing with a thud on Monday. Like previous spending blueprints, Trump’s plan for the 2020 budget year will propose cuts to many domestic programs favored by lawmakers in both parties but leave alone politically popular retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
Washington probably will devote months to wrestling over erasing the last remnants of a failed 2011 budget deal that would otherwise cut core Pentagon operations by $71 billion and domestic agencies and foreign aid by $55 billion. Top lawmakers are pushing for a reprise of three prior deals to use spending cuts or new revenues and prop up additional spending rather than defray deficits that are again approaching $1 trillion.
It’s put deficit hawks in a gloomy mood.
“The president doesn’t care. The leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t care,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. “And social media is in stampede mode.”
Trump’s budget arrives as the latest Treasury Department figures show a 77 percent spike in the deficit over the first four months of the budget year, driven by falling revenues and steady growth in spending.
Trump’s 2017 tax cut bears much of the blame, along with sharp increases in spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies and the growing federal retirement costs of the baby boom generation. 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.
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.
An administration official said Friday that the president’s plan promises to balance the budget in 15 years. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss specifics about the budget before the document’s official release and spoke on condition of anonymity
Democrats have witnessed the retirement of a generation of lawmakers who came up in the 1980s and 1990s and negotiated deficit-cutting deals in 1990 and 1993. But those agreements came at significant political cost to both President George H.W. Bush, who lost re-election, and President Bill Clinton, whose party lost control of Congress in 1995.