Wednesday, December 05, 2018


At the Daily Beast, Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay report that President Trump thinks reducing the debt isn't his job.
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have tried to convince him of the importance of tackling the national debt.

Sources close to the president say he has repeatedly shrugged it off, implying that he doesn’t have to worry about the money owed to America’s creditors—currently about $21 trillion—because he won’t be around to shoulder the blame when it becomes even more untenable.

The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office.

“Yeah, but I won’t be here,” the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt.
We can regard this as Boomer selfishness, or as a sign of Trump's inability to care about anyone other than himself -- but it's also a sign that Trump is enabling Republicans' big con on the debt without actually being in on it.

We know what Republican congressional leaders, right-wing pundits, and GOP donors want to do to federal coffers: By lowering taxes on the rich (and, to some extent, on the non-rich) without reducing spending, they hope to engender a debt crisis, which they'll hang around the necks of Democrats the next time there's a Democrat-dominated federal government. They want to make it impossible for Democrats ever to enact any new federal programs that might cost a significant amount of money (like Medicare for All, free college, or even an infrastructure plan). Ultimately, they want the red ink to become so alarming that Democrats are forced to accept (and sign on to) massive cuts in Medicare and Social Security, cuts that Republicans will then blame on the Democrats. Less spending on these programs means even more money for the GOP's fat cat donors.

But Trump seems not to understand this. If Suebsaeng and Markay are right, Trump genuinely believes one of the lines of malarkey Republicans use to sell GOP economics:
Those close to Trump say that one reason the issue of debt reduction has never been an animating one for him is because he is convinced that it can be solved through means other than tax hikes or sharp spending reductions.

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist at the Heritage Foundation and an economic adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, recalled making visual presentations to Trump in mid-2016 that showed him the severity of the debt problem. But Moore told The Daily Beast that he personally assured candidate Trump that it could be dealt with by focusing on economic growth.

“That was why, when he was confronted with these nightmare scenarios on the debt, I think he rejected them, because if you grow the economy… you don’t have a debt problem,” Moore continued. “I know a few times when people would bring up the enormous debt, he would say, ‘We’re gonna grow our way out of it.’”
As The Washington Post recently reported, Trump has given some thought to cutting the debt -- but he doesn't want to cut entitlements or, for that matter, defense:
... even as he has demanded deficit reduction, Trump has handcuffed his advisers with limits on what measures could be taken. And almost immediately after demanding the cuts from his Cabinet secretaries, Trump suggested that some areas — particularly the military — would be largely spared.

The president has said no changes can be made to Medicare and Social Security, two of the government’s most expensive entitlements, as he has promised that the popular programs will remain untouched.
Trump's belief that Medicare and Social Security are sacrosanct is probably the only political opinion he has that's truly at odds with all forms of conservatism. (His trade skepticism and on-again-off-again isolationism aren't consistent with mainstream conservatism, but they're quite paleoconservative.)

Other Republicans pretend to support Medicare and Social Security, but they're just counting the days until they can slash the safety net, all while telling their voters that they intend no such thing, adding that their tax cuts will lead to tremendous growth and thus aren't budget-busters at all.

GOP politicians are supposed to know that this is all a con. Only Republican voters are supposed to fall for it. But Trump has fallen for it. He didn't understand the purpose of the tax-cut bill. But he signed it anyway, and to the folks who are in on the con, that's all that matters.

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