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Trump and his budget are anti-Republican

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Douglas Cohn

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Under any other president’s watch, this would be big news, that the budget deficit has reached $895 billion. Thanks to President Trump’s tax cut, corporate tax revenue fell 30 percent in the last 11 months, and the need for social services remains despite the good economy.

Wages are only now starting to rise, and middle-class Americans continue to struggle. According to a new survey by the Economic Policy Institute, chief executives make 271 times more than the typical worker. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, the disparity was 42 times more.

Reagan ushered in the GOP’s tax-cutting mania, reducing the top rate for high earners to 28 percent down from 70 percent, and he called it what it is: a flat tax. It crept up over the years in an effort to plug the hole Reagan created in the budget. Now that President Trump is in the White House, Republicans have abandoned all talk of a balanced budget, and politicians in both parties have given up on curbing the deficit.

Does it matter? The short answer is yes. Deficits of this size have not been seen since World War II. Spending more money than we have to fight a war is understandable and justifiable, but going into deficit spending to finance a tax cut that primarily benefits the most well-to-do Americans is unnecessary and irresponsible.

Trump is not known for thinking through the consequences of his actions. He does what feels good at the time, and jamming through a major tax cut counted as a big achievement heading into the midterm election when the party in power typically loses seats.

Ironically, the tax cut is not proving the boon on the campaign trail that Republicans expected. Voters are smart, and they realize the bulk of the benefits went to the top of the income scale, and they’re not happy about that.

What Trump is doing is anything but Republican. Republicans have championed balanced budgets and denounced deficit spending as the cornerstone of their fiscal beliefs going back to Herbert Hoover. Hoover was wrong to refuse deficit spending to combat the Depression, but the GOP has always made fiscal responsibility a first principle.

Reagan was the first Republican to stray from the notion that deficits are bad, joking that the deficit “is big enough to take care of itself” when it rose under his leadership.

President Clinton was forced into paying attention to the deficit when Ross Perot, a billionaire Texas populist, made combatting the deficit the focus of his third-party campaign in 1992. Perot raised public awareness of the issue, and Clinton raised taxes on the highest earners from Reagan’s 28 percent to 39.6 percent.

Clinton left the country with a budget surplus when he left office in 2001. His successor, George W. Bush, blew through that surplus with a big tax cut of his own and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were waged on credit.

Trump is not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat either when it comes to the economy. He’s a Trumpster, which means he acts in his own short-term interest. We now have the biggest budget deficit in more than 70 years and several presidents ago, and there should be a bipartisan effort to restrain this president.

Instead, both sides are acting like there’s no tomorrow, as though the day of reckoning can be put off forever. Trump will not be in office forever, but while he’s there, he should be recognized as the threat that he is to the nation’s fiscal health.

Washington Merry-Go-Round presents today’s events in historical perspective. Douglas Cohn is a columnist, speaker and author of political and historical nonfiction. Eleanor Clift is political reporter, author, a contributor to MSNBC and blogger for The Daily Beast.

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