President Trump’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year is coming under fierce criticism from Democrats and the media but a House Budget Committee member who spent 20 years as a college economics professor is impressed by Trump’s goals while warning that the president will need to address entitlement spending at some point.
The Trump administration released its $4 trillion budget proposal while Trump himself was overseas. It calls for robust increases in national security spending while calling for considerable cuts to various government departments.
Democrats have claimed the budget is cruel and likely to cause children to die. Republicans warn the final appropriations bills probably won’t look much like the Trump plan.
Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia, spent 20 years as an economics professor at Randolph Macon College. He believes Trump is generally on the right track.
“Overall, I’m impressed, It’s got the big pieces in the right place,” said Brat. “The major piece I like is the policy aimed at getting three percent growth. That will solve a lot of problems going forward,” said Brat, while praising the policies Trump is clearly emphasizing in the budget.
“It pluses up the military. It tries to clean out the swamp. It reduces some bureaucracy. It balances in 10 years. All of these are good conservative policies,” said Brat.
Brat says the Trump plan is a great improvement over what the Democrats are proposing. In fact, he says they have no solutions at all.
“As a visionary document, we’re moving in the right direction. Across the aisle on the Democrat side, they haven’t even ever put forward a budget that balances, not even in a 75-year window,” said Brat.
Brat and other Republicans admit getting what they want in the appropriations process won’t be easy since Senate rules require at least eight Democrats to approve any spending bills. But while Democrats can gum up the process, Brat is acutely aware that voters will not accept failure when it comes to fiscal discipline.
“We should compromise but we shouldn’t give away the store. In my view, the other side has given away the store too often. On our side, we need to clean up some of this, rearrange the (entitlement) programs so the kids get sustained benefits over their lifetimes. We’ve got to get the economy moving and some of that requires discipline,” said Brat.
“So our side gets hit hard but we need to step up to the plate and take it. That’s our job and the American people expect us to get it straight,” said Brat.
But what about Democrats alleging children will die as a result of the Trump budget? That allegation was especially targeted towards a proposed $800 billion in Medicaid cuts. Brat says that’s dishonest reporting of the facts.
“The Democrats call them cuts. They’re cuts from the baseline. Medicaid still keeps increasing. It just doesn’t increase at the pace it was going at, and that pace is bankrupting the country,” said Brat. “Lot of politics going on right now but not much substance offered by the other side. They’re great at hurling the insults but they’re short on the economic studies.”
He also says White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney made it very clear how he want about finding places to cut in the Fiscal 2018 budget.
“He said, ‘Look, there’s no mystery. It’s just like running a business. You look at each of these programs one by one by one and you compare the benefits against the cost.’ He made it very clear the safety net is not in question,” said Brat.
Brat says Democrats and Republicans need to realize that calling for a trillion dollars in cuts is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Some on the left are giving us a hard time over trying to save a trillion dollars or so, but even if we save one trillion that leaves you with another hundred trillion dollar shortfall with Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, etc,” said Brat, who says failure to address the key entitlements will make 10-year spending cuts seem like loose change.
“Either you reform them and update them or else the kids get nothing. The left is acting like ‘draconian’ cuts are going to hurt people. Those cuts are nothing in comparison to the mandatory piece,” said Brat.
He says the clock is ticking loudly and time is short before entitlements engulf the entire budget.
“Those mandatory programs will account for 100 percent of all federal revenues in about 15 years. That’s not a typo. All federal revenues will be spent only on the mandatory. That means there’s no money for the military, transportation, running government,” said Brat.
With that kind of looming fiscal crisis, Brat says the only path forward is to get every able-bodied adult into the workforce, and that’s where tax reform and tax cuts come in. He says the demonizing of so-called supply side economics is bizarre.
“That term is used as a pejorative right now in D.C., supply-side tax cuts. I taught economics for 20 years. The demand side is all the people out there called consumers. The supply side is also everybody out there that works for a living in business. That’s the supply side,” said Brat.
He says it’s time for Washington to embrace the supply side again, since pumping up the demand side was a major flop.
“We’ve tried demand side stuff. We’ve had bailouts, etc. that pumped money back into people’s pockets. It gives you an instantaneous jolt, but if you’re serious about getting the economy growing you better incentivize business. Trump probably won the election on that,” said Brat.
Brat believes doing tax cuts and tax reform right will set the stage for economic growth, which is the best hope for avoiding fiscal disaster in the near future. He says tax cuts give businesses reason to hire, thereby beefing up the labor participation rate and bringing in more federal revenues through taxes.
“If we solve that one it’s huge,” said Brat. “I think a lot of the worries go away if we get this economy rolling again.”