The double count: Trump budget includes $2 trillion accounting gimmick

Trump's budget gurus claim that the same $2.06 trillion will pay for both deficit reduction and tax reform

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published May 24, 2017 11:43AM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump's new budget seems to have a $2.06 trillion error.

That is, it claims that the same $2.06 trillion can be used to both reduce the budget deficit and simultaneously pay for Trump's proposed tax cuts, according to a report by Axios. When confronted about this during a press conference on Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney argued that the administration "did [the double count] on purpose... I'm aware of the criticisms and would simply come back and say there's other places where we were probably overly conservative in our accounting. We stand by the numbers."

[salon_video id="14770982"]

Economists interviewed by the Los Angeles Times seem to agree that Trump's figures are absurd. A senior vice president for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget named told the Times that "you can’t use the same money twice." Lawrence Summers, who served in economic policy positions for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, referred to the double-counting as an "egregious accounting error."

Even the president of the conservative American Action Forum, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, told the paper that while an argument could be made that the budget didn't intentionally double-count, at first glance the budget and tax-plan figures "don't seem to match."

Another problem with the Trump budget is that it's based on the assumption that the economy will achieve sustained growth at a rate of 3 percent. As Alice Rivlin, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under Clinton, told the Times, "This has been a very long period of growth and we’re at the high end already. If we are so lucky to have continuous, steady growth, it's not likely to be at 3 percent or 4 percent or 5 percent."

Without that sustained growth, there could be a serious fiscal shortfall caused by Trump's policies.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Federal Budget Mick Mulvaney Partner Video