Opinion

Trump’s fantasies, and budget realities

Senate Republicans' health-care bill would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured by the end of the coming decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Senate Republicans' health-care bill would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured by the end of the coming decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Washington Post

President Trump seems to live in his own world in many ways. A spotty crowd for his inauguration? Nope, it was a record. Obamacare is not unpopular with the public? No ... it’s a “disaster.” Trump Jr. having a questionable meeting with a Russian lawyer? He’s a fine young man and anybody would have taken the meeting. And of course, on those matters for which there are apparently no grounds for denial – it’s all the creation of the fake news liberal media.

But when it comes to economic policy, the president has a critic it’s going to be tough to shake — the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which takes a pretty sober look at all things to do with the economy. (The CBO, for example, may ring the funeral chimes for the Republican health-care plan if its forecast on the latest Senate proposal finds millions and millions of people left without insurance.)

The CBO now is questioning the president’s overall plan for the American economy, a plan founded on a belief in tax cuts for the wealthy (will stimulate things, Trump says, and create jobs), deregulation (will let business make more money unhindered) and spending cuts (a promise unkept by Democrats and Republicans alike for ... oh, the history of the Republic).

The CBO finds the president’s plan vague – an understatement. Trump on the campaign trail was given to arm-waving promises of prosperity, but he’s never been much for detail.

He promised, for example, a balanced budget and an economic surplus by 2027, but the CBO says the budget isn’t going to balance and that the deficit is likely to remain at $720 billion.

The problem is Trump forecasts of growth that are simply outrageous.

That’s probably because the CBO, a report by The New York Times notes, is finding few details in Trump’s budget predictions and plans. His Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledges that Social Security and Medicare, with costs increasing, are not sustainable forever as they now stand – something virtually all White House administrations have been saying for several generations now. But Mnuchin says not to worry – that Trump’s much-ballyhooed growth predictions will make the problems with these programs go away.

That’s not so, says the CBO.

The truth is that Trump’s optimism may make his base feel good, but when coupled with excessive tax cuts, the Trump policies are going to make it harder to balance budgets and fund programs. If he – and this applies to previous presidents as well – had the political courage to make upper-income Americans face the reality that they need to pay more in taxes – much more – to fund services for the country that has helped them prosper, Medicare and Social Security and for that matter health care could indeed be made secure.

Trump will pay no mind to the CBO, of course, as he probably never heard of it until he took office. But being president isn’t like running a corporation with hundreds of executives making most of the day-to-day decisions. Harry Truman knew it, and all presidents have known it. At the end of the day, the president is responsible for the decisions that flow from his office.

This editorial originally appeared in The News & Observer.

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