Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Budgets, Taxes, Deficits and Debt; or, Mulvaney Versus the Math

English: South Carolina State Senator Mick Mul...
South Carolina State Senator (now director of the US Office of Management and Budget) Mick Mulvaney speaking in front of a crowd in Newberry, SC, in August of 2010 during his run for the U.S. House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What you see in this budget is exactly what the president ran on,” US Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in late February.

The president’s overall budget proposal is still under wraps and hasn’t been sent to Congress yet, but Mulvaney was making the media rounds to flack for its first big component: A $54 billion increase in military spending.

Mulvaney’s claim is true as far as it goes. Donald Trump ran for president on a promise to “rebuild” the most expensive war machine in the world, a “defense” establishment that hasn’t missed a meal since World War Two and that, if cut by 90%, would still be the first or second largest in the world (depending on what China spends from year to year).

Mulvaney didn’t look very happy about it. I don’t blame him. As Stephanopoulos pointed out, Trump made a few other promises, too — and those promises represent an insoluble math problem for the numbers guy.

On one hand, in addition to the increased defense spending, Trump wants a $1 trillion infrastructure program and he’s pledged not to touch Social Security or Medicare spending.

On the other hand, he’s promised to cut taxes.

Even if his hands weren’t so famously small, they’d have trouble holding on to both sets of promises while juggling two more in the air: He’s promised to reduce the federal government’s annual spending deficit and pay down its gigantic debt.

Yes, the “Laffer Curve” predicts the possibility of increased government revenues from general economic growth after tax cuts,  but those numbers still just don’t add up. It’s not possible to spend more, and tax less, and pay down crippling debt, and bring a runaway budget into balance.

Unless Trump and Republicans in Congress are willing to buckle down and get serious about spending cuts (if you’re not serious about cutting military spending, you’re not serious about cutting spending) Mulvaney’s real job for the next four years won’t be balancing budgets, it  will be making excuses.

Fortunately for Trump, he has considerable relevant business experience that he can bring to bear on the problem.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, that experience is in the casino industry where, no fewer than four times, he spent enterprises into insolvency then left his partners holding the bankruptcy bag.

I predict that his presidency will bring that number to five.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION  HISTORY

  • “Mulvaney versus the math,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Newberry, South Carolina Observer, 03/08/17
  • “Budgets, taxes, deficits and debt; or, Mulvaney versus the math,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Southern Utah News [print edition, p. 4], 03/09/17

Trump: Triumph of the Permanent Campaign

English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in...
English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less than a month into the first term of his presidency, Politico reports, Donald Trump appears to be back on the campaign trail, heading for Melbourne, Florida and one of his signature airport hangar rallies.

The Washington Post‘s Philip Bump speculates that Trump’s outing is motivated by the simple need for an ego boost. It’s been a rough month. Heck, it’s been a rough week, marked by the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and the withdrawal of Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder, under shadows of different kinds. Rallies feel like … victory. Trump knows how to pack a house and pump it full of feelgood, taking away even more energy from his performances than he brings to them.

I’ve got an alternative theory: Donald Trump is the consummate politician.

Granted, he ran for president as “not a politician.” But there’s less to that image than meets the eye. Beneath the hype, hard reality: Donald Trump whipped 16 rivals for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, then went on to best an “inevitable” former First Lady, former US Senator, and former US Secretary of State in the general election. Some “non-politician.”

One of the losing candidate’s long-time confidants, Sidney Blumenthal, identified an interesting modern political phenomenon in a 1980 book, The Permanent Campaign. Blumenthal’s thesis was that the political center of gravity has moved over time away from the smoke-filled party/patronage rooms — stable long-term concerns — and toward a constant short-term concern with more mercurial factors like poll numbers and public perception.

Trump is well-known for his hyper-sensitivity to being perceived as anything less than top dog in every respect. He decries negative press and polling as biased and can’t wait to tout his latest triumph, even if he has to invent it himself (see, for example “inaugural attendance figures”).

It’s time to stop thinking of that as a character defect and recognize it for what it is. Donald J. Trump represents the pinnacle of the “permanent campaign” ethos. He’s all politician, all the time.

Ironically, Trump’s authoritarian stylings may end up producing results closely tracking direct democracy — rule of the majority, or at least the plurality, albeit on a drunken moment-to-moment lurch.

If so, I predict that his presidency, whether one term or two in duration, will validate HL Mencken’s conception of democracy as “the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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That’s Hypocrisy: DC Swamp Creatures vs. Kellyanne Conway

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, as well as various “watchdog” groups, are up in arms over $99 textured open-front cardigans, $125 suede slingback pumps, and $98 pebbled leather crossbody bags. Yes, really.

In an appearance on Fox and Friends, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway made the mistake of doing the obvious: When the subject of Ivanka Trump’s  eponymous clothing line came up (because Nordstrom’s department stores are dropping Ivanka’s products), she spoke supportively of her boss’s daughter: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you …. I’m going to give it a free commercial here, go buy it today.”

Apparently that’s a big deal.

US Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, signed a letter seeking an ethics investigation.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Government Ethics. The White House says it has “counseled” Conway.

Talking up a presidential family member’s business when it’s in the news is an ethics violation? My hypocrisy meter is pinging in the red zone right about now.

Members of Congress continually vote to fork over billions of dollars to companies whose executives make large campaign contributions and whose lobbyists buy lots of drinks and steaks. When they’re done being in Congress, they draw lavish salaries from positions on the boards of, or as lawyers or lobbyists for, those same companies.

Ditto former presidents and former cabinet officials. Does anyone really believe that former Secretary of State Hillary racked up $5 million in speaking fees in 15 months  because she’s a great orator with wonderful, innovative ideas? She knocked that kind of money down as payment for past favors and, as a prospective president, down payment for future ones.

Sure, the Beltway establishment occasionally offers up a human sacrifice as proof of its moral rectitude. Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) paid a $300,000 fine and eventually resigned when charged with 84 ethics violations.  Former US Representative Randy Cunningham was sentenced to eight years in prison for accepting millions of dollars in bribes. But they’re the exceptions, not the rule.

If I had to guess, I’d guess there will be plenty of actual White House corruption to complain about in the coming four years. Going after Kellyanne Conway for saying nice things about Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is a cheap shot from people who do far worse every day.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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