Trump Administration To Propose Balancing Budget

The complete proposed budget for Donald Trump’s first fiscal year will not be released until next week, but advance word is that the president will propose a plan to balance the federal budget within 10 years. The budget will reportedly ask for cuts in federal entitlement programs in conjunction with an overhaul of the tax and regulatory system.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the plan will not include cuts to the two largest drivers of future spending, Medicare and Social Security, but will ask for trillions of dollars in cuts to discretionary spending such as education, housing, environment programs and foreign aid as well as nondiscretionary spending in programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and federal employee-benefit programs.

The budget will also include budget increases that were announced in the budget blueprint released in March. One of the largest increases in funding would go to the military, which was slated for an additional $54 billion to be split between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. There is also likely to be additional infrastructure spending, a neestimatedement for paid parental leave and border security measures.

The Journal notes that the budget does not include the details of the tax reform, but is likely to estimate the Republican tax reform as revenue neutral. Rate cuts would be offset by the elimination of tax breaks so that a Congressional Budget Office estimate would show no loss of revenue.

Balancing the budget will require growth as well as spending cuts. “The way we balanced the budget in the 1990s is we had spending restraint and GDP growth caught up—government revenues caught up, as the GDP growth came in,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said. “That’s what we’re trying to get back to.”

White House estimates of growth are much more optimistic than CBO estimates. The White House estimates three percent growth by 2021 while the CBO forecasts a 1.9 percent growth rate. Economists polled by the Journal estimate growth at 2.3 percent if Mr. Trump’s policies are enacted.

Conflicts over the growth rate may make it hard for the Trump Administration to find support among budget hawks for its spending increases. “I am extremely pessimistic that you can show a balanced budget unless you’re going to make the mother of all ‘rosy scenario’ type assumptions,” said William Hoagland, a former Republican budget aide who is now senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The spending cuts are also certain to draw fire from Democrats. Expect much weeping, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the proposed slashing of funds for safety net programs. Some moderate Republicans are also likely to object, making it extremely unlikely that the full measure of the cuts will become law.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said as much on Thursday, claiming, “It is an ideological document, not a document that will ever be utilized.”

The budget is slated to be released next Tuesday, while President Trump is touring Europe and the Middle East. Given Mr. Trump’s problems over the past two weeks, that may increase Republican chances of getting the budget passed.

Trump Speech To Congress Was Mixed Bag For Conservatives

President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress last night (text here) was a triumph for the president. Without a doubt, Mr. Trump delivered one of the most effective speeches of his political career.

Stylistically, the president was smooth and practiced. The speech was in sharp contrast to his disjointed stump speeches and press conferences. Mr. Trump proved that he can deliver a polished, rehearsed speech with minimal ad libbing. In a word, Mr. Trump seemed presidential.

To a conservative, the content of the speech was a mixed bag. Much of what I heard involved new federal spending by a government that is broke. While I applaud Mr. Trump’s desire to expand the defense budget and believe that rebuilding the military is long overdue, I would have liked to hear that the new spending would be balanced by spending cuts elsewhere. Instead, I heard that there would be more spending domestically.

“America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling,” Trump said in a statement that sounded like it could have come from Barack Obama. “With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country — twice.”

Trump continued, sounding even more like Obama circa 2009, “To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs.”

America has already tried a near-trillion-dollar stimulus. It failed to stimulate the economy or the job market. It didn’t work. We woke up afterward with eight years of economic stagnation and a national debt that had almost doubled.

“I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE,” Donald Trump said.

I distrust politicians who talk about fairness. Fairness is the opposite of freedom because it relies on government to determine what is fair. Fairness is subjective. What is fair is at the discretion of who defines fairness. When fairness is the goal, government grows because government is the ultimate arbiter of fairness… if you can hire enough lobbyists to advance your notion of fairness.

When Barack Obama said that he wanted people to pay their “fair share,” I held onto my wallet. When I hear Donald Trump talk about fair trade, I expect that, if he gets his way, I will be paying more when I go to the store.

President Trump’s speech did have plenty for conservatives to applaud. His support for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare was much needed. Hopefully, he will take the lead on unifying congressional Republicans around a single plan. Trump’s promise of tax reform is also much needed. His victory lap over the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was well deserved. His support for law enforcement after Barack Obama’s equivocations was reassuring.

Also reassuring was President Trump’s expressed support for immigration reform. While Trump did stress violent crimes carried out by illegal immigrants and promised again to build his wall, he did open the door to the bipartisan compromise that will be necessary to resolve the problem of illegal immigration. The claim that Mexico would pay for the wall was conspicuously absent.

There was a shortage on specifics in general, but especially on how a broke government will pay for his many programs.

The most moving part of the night – and probably the longest of many ovations – was for President Trump’s salute to US Navy Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens, who recently died on a raid against al-Qaeda in Yemen. It is doubtful if there was a dry eye in the house as the president recognized Ryan’s widow, Carryn.

Reaction to the speech will largely depend on what camp the listener falls into. Trump supporters will justifiably claim that he hit a homerun. Trump opponents will point to flawed policies and very questionable claims and statistics.

As a conservative who voted for “none of the above,” I can at least think that Trump is, so far, better than Hillary would have been. Other than not withdrawing from the TPP, I cannot think of anything that Hillary would have said that would have been more palatable than Mr. Trump’s speech. A low bar, I know. President Trump, for all his flaws, has so far supported at least a partially conservative agenda and appointed some (not all) very good people to very important jobs.

Nevertheless, as the speech opened and closed, it’s easy to hear Trump saying, “Generations from now, we will look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and jobs for the jobless. This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

How did that work out?

Russ Feingold’s War on the F/A-18 Super Hornet

As darkness crept across Afghanistan on a late fall day in 2011, an F/A-18 Super Hornet flown by a U.S. Navy pilot released a single precision guided munition that killed a Taliban leader plotting to carry out attacks against U.S. ground forces. In the previous decade, F/A-18s flown by Navy and Marine aviators flew thousands of missions executing air strike after air strike in support of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

When President Barack Obama insisted on reducing the number of U.S. ground troops in the country, it was aircraft like the Super Hornet that served as a force multiplier allowing the U.S. to continue to keep insurgents at bay while protecting grunts on the ground.

Fast forward to August of 2014, and a pair of F/A-18s flying from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush became the first U.S. warplanes to attack ISIS. Since 2001, the F/A-18 has seen service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and served as an important tool for both Republican and Democratic Presidents. More critically, the F/A-18’s ability to fulfill both air superiority and ground attack roles has meant that it could provide vital protection for U.S. troops waging war on the ground.

It’s not an understatement to say that the F/A-18 has saved lives.

But none of this would have been possible if Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) had gotten his way. Twice, in two successive sessions of Congress, the ultra-leftist Democrat introduced legislation to kill the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

In 1997, Feingold introduced S.520 which demanded that the Secretary of Defense immediately halt the procurement program for the F/A-18 E and F variants, which were intended to replace outdated F-14 Tomcats which were more expensive to fly and were relics of the Cold War.

“The Secretary of Defense shall terminate the F/A-18E/F aircraft program,” the legislation declared. Two years later, in 1999, Feingold introduced the exact same language in S.129.

Additionally, Feingold twice introduced amendments on the floor of the Senate to limit how many F/A-18 Super Hornets the military could buy. Large, bipartisan majorities rejected the amendments each time.

The Super Hornet is a modernized and larger version of its smaller predecessor, the F/A-18 Hornet. In the early 1990s the Navy, facing a shrinking post-Cold War budget, wanted to combine the functions of a fighter (the F-14) with an attack aircraft (A-6) and significantly upgrade the resulting plane to meet 21st Century threats.

To make the savings possible, the Navy – along with its subordinate force the Marine Corps – needed to fund the development of, and ultimately buy, the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Within the decade the military was taking delivering of the new warplane and barely into the 21st Century it would become a workhorse in the skies above the Middle East.

Why Feingold opposed the purchase of a cost-saving aircraft is unclear. According to Boeing, the current manufacturer of the Super Hornet, the plane “is the most cost-effective aircraft in the U.S. tactical aviation fleet, costing less per flight hour than any other tactical aircraft in U.S. forces inventory.” Further, upgrades to the aircraft mean it is projected to be in service until 2040, making it a relative bargain in the ever expensive world of warplane development.

Feingold’s subsequent opposition to the war in Iraq hardly offers any justification for his ardent opposition to an airplane the Clinton administration wanted for its cost savings and multi-role capabilities.

As the long-time Democratic Senator runs to regain his old seat from Wisconsin this year, national security will be – and has been – a topic of debate. Explaining to Wisconsin voters why he opposed a warplane that has kept American fighting men and women safe will be a lot more difficult than offering vague pronouncements about American policy. Voters understand the difference between opposing various wars and opposing the tools that keep American service members safe and allow them to do their job and come home. The latter is hard to justify.