In 2003, during the Bush Administration’s efforts to pass a second round of tax cuts, Vice-President Dick Cheney famously said that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” Cheney was arguing that tax cuts would generate enough additional economic activity to offset any increase in the debt incurred by tax reduction, making the deficits manageable in the short term. I agree with his point…to a point. Tax cuts do generate additional government revenue because lower taxes increase economic growth, but that growth alone is not sufficient to offset massive deficits and debt without spending cuts as well.
For decades, America’s fiscal policy has flirted with disaster. Washington has continued to expand entitlement programs to the point that over $6 in $10 the government takes-in goes to pay entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. In the next 15-20 years these programs will eat-up 100% of all annual federal revenues. All the while, successive presidents and congresses, both Republican and Democrat, have continued to expand government programs and grow government spending. As a result, the nation is now over $20 trillion in debt and is further running-up the tab by more than $500 billion per year.
I support tax cuts as a critical key to economic growth and expansion, but they, alone, cannot make America’s economy great again. Republicans have an awful history of ignoring deficits when we obtain power, arguing that rebuilding our military and national infrastructure necessitates such spending, only to turn the tables and decry the imminent economic destruction being wrought by the party of big government when a Democrat occupies the Oval Office. We can’t warn that the country is careening down the road to becoming Greece under a liberal democrat, and then blow a hole in the deficit under a republican.
I applaud Trump’s tax proposals that would lower our business tax rates to be competitive with the rest of the world, and provide tax relief to working families. I also support rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, much of which is dilapidated or inadequate to current needs. I do not support doing so, however, without coupling such spending proposals with a plausible plan to reduce our annual deficits and to lower our national debt. Conservatives cannot make the same mistake we made under President Bush, which was to preside over the growth of government spending after reducing taxes to stimulate economic growth.
President Trump and the 115th Congress must tackle our national debt crisis, which former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, said in 2010 is “the most significant threat to our national security.” In 2010 the debt was over $3 trillion less than it is today, so one can only assume that the situation has gotten worse. I support President Trump’s call to rebuild America’s military, but this cannot be done without money, and it shouldn’t be done with borrowed money.
Republicans must now make the hard choices with the people’s money that we, the people, make with our own. They must prioritize and learn to manage limited resources like everyone else. Cutting taxes is a good thing for our country and our economy, but tax cuts alone cannot correct our collision course with economic disaster. We must seek to cut federal spending, limit federal spending as a percentage of our national economy, and balance the budget in less than ten years. Absent these reforms, the same economic trends that we decried under Obama will continue to overwhelm us under Trump.
We can never truly make America Great Again until we make her books balance again. This should be a cornerstone of any conservative government.