WILFORD: Trump Helped Congress Pass One Budget-Busting Deal; Will He Do It Again?


Andrew Wilford National Taxpayers' Union Foundation
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Congress is at it again — crafting yet another deal to bypass the spending caps that were a crowning Republican achievement during the Obama presidency. Should Congress attempt to do so without finding the spending cuts elsewhere to pay for it, President Trump should reject it out of hand.

Back in 2011, the Republican Congress reached a deal with President Obama to pass the Budget Control Act (BCA), legislation which directed Congress to find over a trillion dollars in needed budget cuts. The BCA was more than just a suggestion, however — should Congress fail to find these cuts, the BCA automatically instituted more than a trillion dollars in across-the-board cuts over a decade.

Yet even this threat of a sequester was not enough to trigger congressional action, and Congress has repeatedly passed bills that delay the implementation of sequester cuts. It’s like a person committing to a diet that starts tomorrow. When the day comes, the date gets pushed again. For eight years.

And though President Trump signed the last omnibus spending bill that put off the sequester with no meaningful budget cuts to pay for it, he warned then that he would “never sign another bill like [that] again.” Unfortunately, Congress appears poised to send him exactly what he has claimed he won’t sign — another bill just like that.

Avoiding the budget caps yet again would cost taxpayers over $2 trillion over the next ten years. That’s over $500 billion more than the fiscal impact of the recent tax reform legislation, and for far less benefit. Tax reform put money back in taxpayers’ wallets while growing the economy, yet it triggered weeks of crocodile tears by its opponents over the impact on the debt. Most of those same crocodiles have little to say about a more significant budget-buster that rears its head every two years, however.

And considering the budget crisis that the federal government has nonchalantly mired itself in, Congress can’t afford to continue kicking the can down the road. Discretionary spending is the politically easier portion of federal spending to rein in, as it is separate from entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. Yet Congress can’t even get its act together there.

Far harder, and yet far more necessary, will be cutting back entitlement spending. Medicare and Social Security alone are projected to run an $82 trillion deficit over the next thirty years alone. That’s nearly four times the size of our already-substantial national debt, just in two programs. Without reforms, Americans will face harsh cuts to programs they paid into and counted on their whole lives.

Unfortunately, Congress’s profiligacy when it comes to discretionary spending does not bode well for taxpayers who hope that the adults in the Capitol will offer a responsible path forward. The problem won’t simply go away because Congress does not wish to deal with it.

American taxpayers deserve more than just lip service to the need to rein in out-of-control spending. And if Congress presents President Trump with yet another irresponsible, budget-busting bill, he should tell them to go back and try again.

Andrew Wilford (@PolicyWilford) is a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fiscal policy analysis and education at all levels of government.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.