President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE will give his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, and reactions will likely depend on opinions already strongly held before he begins to speak.
His base is likely to celebrate as he lauds tax reform and regulatory rollback, while his opposition will fume at the same and object to much of the rest.
While both sides are likely to see the Russia investigation looming for different reasons, a much more pressing and long-term problem seems mostly to be escaping notice — spending and debt.
For starters, both tax reform and several delayed or suspended ObamaCare taxes rolled into the last few continuing resolutions have added billions to the deficit and are expected to add far more.
While economic growth is sure to offset some of the gap (likely more than Democrats think and less than Republicans want), that’s just the tip of the debt iceberg.
The spending deal (and remember, it’s not exactly a budget) currently up for consideration is almost certain to include hiking of discretionary spending limits set in the Budget Control Act and could cause the debt to rise to over 100 percent of GDP in short order alone.
Meanwhile, any deal on immigration and Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will also cost money by making more people eligible for federal benefits, while almost certainly adding funding for the president’s border wall in exchange — $18 billion over the decade, according to his request.
Congress is also considering bailing out private, union-run pension plans, with costs that could range as high as $500 billion. The deal will likely include disaster relief, which will be at least $81 billion (the amount the House approved recently) but could be even higher with supplemental requests. Funding for Community Health Centers ($40 billion over the decade) is also in the pipeline.
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If you’re currently doing some panicked math, don’t put down your calculator just yet. None of the above includes the president’s infrastructure plan, which will cost at least $1.5 trillion (yes, trillion). And the debt limit must be raised by March or April.
In many ways, President Trump has been more willing to take on waste than his predecessors — whether in the form of welfare reform, executive branch reorganization or Department of Defense acquisitions reform.
But as he has certainly learned by now, the swamp is strong, and no meaningful cuts will happen without a sustained push while ignoring the cries of countless lobbyists who clamor that every bit of waste is crucial.
Real, meaningful spending cuts have to be at the top of his list for years to come if the country is to dig out of the mess spending creates.
Tax reform is without a doubt the president’s most sweeping accomplishment, and the electoral ripple effects from Americans who see more money in their paychecks will likely confound more than a few skeptical pundits.
But we should be blunt: There is no economic growth that can erase the levels of federal spending currently being discussed. And allowing deficits and debt to skyrocket to unsustainable levels will upset economic growth and could even plunge it in the opposite direction right before the next election cycle.
If for no other reason than guarding the legacy he has fought so hard to create, President Trump should take swift action to cut spending now before it is too late.
Jonathan Bydlak is the founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, an advocate for lower federal spending, and the creator of SpendingTracker.org. Follow him on Twitter @jbydlak and @Reduce_Spending.