Deficits don't matter to the Republican Party — again

Remember when Republicans were the party of deficit hawks? Now that they're in charge, things have changed

By Matthew Rozsa

Published February 12, 2018 8:02AM (EST)

Donald Trump (Getty/Jim Watson)
Donald Trump (Getty/Jim Watson)

President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are releasing a budget which doesn't even try to eliminate the budget deficit — even though doing so was a major GOP theme when President Barack Obama was in office. But that doesn't mean that there will be federal investment, even though it's infrastructure week.

The upcoming budget request is expected to drastically slash social and domestic programs while increasing spending on the Department of Defense, veterans' health care and anti-illegal immigration measures, according to Politico. It would also cut Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) — both of which have been frequent targets of Republican criticism. The White House projects that the budget deficit would actually shrink, saying the cause is an economic boost from his tax cuts.

But during the Obama years, deficit was a four-letter word to the Republican Party. They dragged the government toward the edge of default in 2011 over a constitutional amendment that would have stopped the government from engaging in deficit spending. House Speaker Paul Ryan also pushed for $4.6 trillion in spending cuts in 2013 when he chaired the House Budget Committee on the grounds that it was necessary to eliminate the deficit, while current Budget Director Mick Mulvaney once referred to Obama's spending program as a "joke" and pushed for the balanced budget amendment.

But one of the major reasons that deficit hawks have been sidelined is that, despite the GOP's past fiscal conservatism, its current ideological course has been established by Trump himself.

"This is Trump’s party right now. Everybody who’s running for reelection will tell you that. It’s primary season, and there just isn’t much talk about fiscal issues," Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told the Post.

The White House defended its budget in a brief summary on Sunday evening by describing it as one that "imposes a fiscal discipline on Washington spending that many in today’s political climate reject, yet which remains more important than ever."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Budget Budget Deficits Donald Trump Mick Mulvaney Paul Ryan