There’s a remarkable argument forming in Senate Republican circles as the details of a bipartisan infrastructure plan continue to be hammered out: We have to make sure we pay for it all.
“The details will matter,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune said Tuesday. “I think a lot of our members are going to look at: ‘How credible are the pay-fors, how large is this?’ For our members, it’s really going to come down to whether it’s all put on the debt.”
Really? Actually: REALLY????
It appears as though Thune – and many of his Senate Republican colleagues – have simply chosen to memory hole the last four years when it comes to government spending.
Here’s a crash course reminder for Thune – via Pro Publica:
“The national debt has risen by almost $7.8 trillion during Trump’s time in office. That’s nearly twice as much as what Americans owe on student loans, car loans, credit cards and every other type of debt other than mortgages, combined, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York…
“…The growth in the annual deficit under Trump ranks as the third-biggest increase, relative to the size of the economy, of any U.S. presidential administration, according to a calculation by a leading Washington budget maven, Eugene Steuerle, co-founder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. And unlike George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln, who oversaw the larger relative increases in deficits, Trump did not launch two foreign conflicts or have to pay for a civil war.”
Which, well, yeah.
And it’s not just that the debt (the sum total of the yearly budget deficits run by the government) was, apparently, not a major concern for former President Donald Trump and his administration.
“Nobody cares,” then White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reportedly told a group of Republicans who wondered why Trump wasn’t going to mention the ever-growing deficit in his State of the Union speech in 2019. Trump said neither “debt” nor “deficit” in that speech.
The massively growing debt also was a remarkable come-down from Trump’s promises made during the 2016 campaign. Here’s Trump talking to Sean Hannity in 2016 about how easily he would balance the federal budget:
“It can be done. … It will take place and it will go relatively quickly. … If you have the right people, like, in the agencies and the various people that do the balancing … you can cut the numbers by two pennies and three pennies and balance a budget quickly and have a stronger and better country.”
“Relatively quickly”! HA!
Now, Trump defenders will say that he started with the best of intentions to reduce the deficit and lower the debt. But neither he nor anyone else could have foreseen the global Covid-19 pandemic – and the need to lean on government spending to stimulate the economy from dropping into recession or even depression.
Which is only sort of true. Again, Pro Publica:
“Economists agree that we needed massive deficit spending during the COVID-19 crisis to ward off an economic cataclysm, but federal finances under Trump had become dire even before the pandemic…
:…The combination of Trump’s 2017 tax cut and the lack of any serious spending restraint helped both the deficit and the debt soar. So when the once-in-a-lifetime viral disaster slammed our country and we threw more than $3 trillion into COVID-19-related stimulus, there was no longer any margin for error.”
What, you ask, did fiscally minded Republicans in Congress do amid this blizzard of spending and deficits? Oh, absolutely nothing. All but 12 Republicans in the House voted for Trump’s massive tax cut in 2017; all 51 Republican senators voted for the measure.
So, it’s more than a little rich to hear Thune – and other Republicans – citing their concerns about adding to the deficit with this latest round of infrastructure spending.