I have heard much wailing and gnashing of teeth since President Trump unveiled his budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
First, the budget as presented will never pass Congress. Any proposal from a president to Congress is subject to change, and so it is with Mr. Trump’s budget. And rest assured, Congress will alter the president’s spending plan, not because most in Congress don’t want a stronger military, for example, but because most in Congress have spending they want to preserve, even if the president doesn’t.
For example, in states and congressional districts where Community Development Block Grants have done much infrastructure good, I expect senators and congressmen to insulate that spending from any budget ax. I suspect the same can be said of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Second, while many Americans might disagree with the president’s spending priorities, we shouldn’t fault him for setting some. Most of us set spending priorities for our households – a needed car repair might mean fewer meals out for a while – so we shouldn’t criticize the president for laying out his priorities for the country.
In government, as in households, an alternative to setting spending priorities is to take on more debt. In small amounts, that’s OK. We might put that car repair on the credit card if we’re confident in paying off that debt in a short amount of time.
But the U.S. government already spends more money than it takes in in taxes, and it has been doing so for most of my adult life. That’s why we have an annual budget deficits and a national debt that is a larger number than most of us can comprehend. No household in its right mind does that.
Like households with spending priorities, Trump has said he wants to rebuild America’s infrastructure and military without adding to the debt. To accomplish that, and cut taxes, the president had no choice but to cut spending elsewhere. Some of us might not like his choices for spending cuts, but spending restraint is prudent.
In favoring thrifty over spendthrift, it’s possible I worry too much about this country’s debt. It’s been staggering for many years now, and yet investors keep buying our bonds. But surely the bill will come due some day, and I worry how that might harm future generations, including my daughter and her children.
I’ll close with this thought: Is it possible for households to repair the broken car and continue eating out without taking on more debt? Sure, mom or dad can ask the boss for a raise.
For U.S. citizens who want it all – infrastructure, a stronger military, PBS, blocks grants to needy communities and manageable debt – there is a revenue alternative. It’s called a tax increase, thought I don’t hear anyone volunteering for one.