Budget

Can the Freedom Caucus Convince Trump to Derail This Awful Budget Deal? If Not, Fiscal Conservatism Is Truly Dead.

The House Freedom Caucus could reverse its trend towards irrelevancy by successfully swaying Trump to turn against the new budget deal.

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Trillion-dollar annual deficits are "a national security risk of the highest order," Donald Trump wrote on Twitter in 2012, long before anyone was taking him seriously as a presidential candidate.

By 2016, when he was a serious presidential candidate, Trump was still worried about overspending. If elected, candidate Trump told The Washington Post, he would try to eliminate the national debt "over a period of eight years." A noble goal, if likely an impossible one.

In 2018, now-President Trump was presented with a bipartisan budget deal that smashed spending caps and hiked federal outlays by $400 billion. He fumed about the cost and threatened to veto the package. He eventually signed it, but said publicly that he was "disappointed" with the final bill and vowed to "never sign another bill like this again."

Trump is not known for being highly consistent on matters of public policy or personal behavior. Often, he seems to want one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else. His ability to shamelessly tell one group of people one thing and another group something totally different is a sort of political superpower, according to Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.).

And Trump is, of course, a self-described "king of debt."

But as Trump evolved from reality TV star to leader of the free world, a general concern about the nation's growing mountain of debt was one of his more consistent positions—and, unlike his feelings towards Mexican immigrants, it is one area where his worry is justified. When Trump issued that 2012 tweet, America had $17 trillion in debt. In 2016, when he promised to wipe out the debt in eight years, the country was carrying $19 trillion. Today, in no small part due to the 2018 budget bill Trump signed, the national debt has soared past $22 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that current policies will add another $11 trillion by the end of 2029.

But instead of doing anything about it, Trump seems prepared to make things worse.

On Monday, the president announced a new bipartisan budget deal that would again hike spending and lift budget caps. Congress is set to vote on the $320 billion spending increase—one that will add $1.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade—sometime next week. Here's how the new spending levels would compare to the Obama-era caps imposed by congressional Republicans.

There is little reason to think the budget deal won't make its way to the president's desk. When it does, Trump will have to make a decision that will likely define a portion of his legacy. Will he sign the bill, or keep the promise he made in 2018?

One variable that might prove interesting: the influence of the House Freedom Caucus, which is run by some of Trump's closest congressional allies.

The splinter group was founded in 2015 to push for institutional reforms in the House and to agitate for reducing the size and cost of the federal government. In the Trump years, the group has largely turned into a sycophantic cheering section for the president's interests—but the last time it played a significant role in a major policy debate was, yes, during the passage of the 2018 budget deal.

The House Freedom Caucus could now be relevant again. Its membership is not large enough to realistically complicate the passage of the budget deal through Congress, but as Rep. Mark Meadows (R–N.C.), the group's chairman, told Politico, he will vote against the bill. Rep. Jim Jordan (R–Ohio), another Freedom Caucus member and Trump ally, reportedly will do the same. It remains unclear how strongly they will lobby Trump to oppose the deal, but House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy (R–Texas) is circulating a letter among his colleagues that calls for Trump to veto the plan. And as Politico reports, one of the signers is another key Trump ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.).

Other House Republicans are also expressing outrage over the bipartisan spending deal.

Conservative policy groups like the Heritage Foundation, Club For Growth, and FreedomWorks have also criticized the budget deal.

The big question is whether Trump will listen. For most presidents, the announcement of a budget deal would be the same as an acknowledgement that he would sign the deal. But Trump has a history of acting erratically even when all the ducks appear to be lined up. He nearly torpedoed the 2018 budget deal at the last minute. In December, he did blow up a smaller budget deal over the lack of spending for his border wall—resulting in a 35-day government shutdown.

It's really anyone's guess whether Trump was previously sincere in his desire to reduce America's deficit and rein in the debt. Perhaps he was merely reading the Tea (Party) leaves and following the GOP's impulse—an impulse that's now largely dead—to cut spending.

There are certainly indications that Trump no longer cares. He signed the 2018 budget bill. Reportedly, he's privately dismissed the debt issue because it won't get really bad until he's out of office. On Tuesday, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported that Trump was telling aids he would "focus on spending cuts in next term as a way to get [fiscal conservatives] to stop bugging him."

It's very likely this awful budget deal will become law. After all, about the only thing everyone in Washington, D.C., seems to agree about is spending more money.

But if the president wishes to make his mark in the all-important battle to restore some fiscal sanity to the federal government, now is the time for him to listen to the Freedom Caucus. He—and they—may never get another, better chance.

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  1. >>>[Is there a pithy Amash quote you can use here?]

    “I should take up tennis.”

    1. This amazing quote implies Reason has editors.

      I am flabbergasted!

    2. So let me understand this right. You, like all the remaining R’s, think ‘fiscal conservatism’ is just a joke – cuz Reason has spoken well of Amash’s principles?

      1. i was mocking Eric and you’re late to the joke.

        and your “think –> cuz” connection makes little sense.

  2. [Is there a pithy Amash quote you can use here?]

    Don’t ever change guys.

    1. They just did.

      1. But they didn’t put in the pithy Amash quote I was waiting for. 0/10 for effort on this one.

        1. 1/10, surely, for at least trying to cover their tracks quickly.

    2. Was this in the article at some point?

      1. Yes. The original Paragraph before it was edited:

        Trump is not known for being highly consistent on matters of public policy or personal behavior. Often, he seems to want one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else. His ability to shamelessly tell one group of people one thing and another group something totally different is a sort of political superpower, according to Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.).[Is there a pithy Amash quote you can use here?]

  3. How much of this drama would have been necessary if the GOP hadn’t lost 40 seats in Congress in 2018 due to an incompetent ground game, lazy pro-Trump voters, and a undignified guy in the White House turning off independents?

    1. Seeing as the GOP-controlled house in 2017 and 2018 didn’t really do any better, yes, this drama would have been just as “necessary” if the GOP had retained control.

      1. Maybe, but the GOP gained expanded it’s margins in the Senate (and passed up a chance in Montana to do better). So, with a larger majority, were Murkowski and Collins and Flake had less control (especially after the latter retired) it is possible the Senate would have had more stomach for it, not assured but possible. Also, who would have been SOH with Ryan gone? But alas, it is always up to the Congress Critters.

        1. The GOP expanded its margins in the Senate only because the particular seats which were up for reelection that year were almost all Democratic seats. The underperformed very badly.

          1. That isn’t really pertinent to the point I was making, is it?

  4. Fiscal conservatism is dead, which is one reason why the libertarian party has no chance in hell. You’ll note that our modern party choices consist of either socialists or Democrats from 1995, there isn’t a wing of either party that believes in fiscal restraint.

    That said, should you choose the party that wants to nationalize everything or the party that just wants to spend a fuck ton of money we don’t have? Also, sub-question, is there a meaningful difference between the two in the long run?

    1. Fiscally conservative–half the population hates you.

      Socially liberal– the other half hates you.

    2. “You’ll note that our modern party choices consist of either socialists or Democrats from 1995, there isn’t a wing of either party that believes in fiscal restraint. ”

      ^^^this

    3. Nationalizing everything would spend even more money than the GOo and give us even less freedom, so possibly marginally better.

    4. Staying away from the cliff edge stops being a relevant political position after you’ve jumped. That’s what is going on here. We passed the point of no return, fiscal conservatism has become irrelevant until after we hit the bottom, and try to pick ourselves back up.

    5. That said, should you choose the party that wants to nationalize everything or the party that just wants to spend a fuck ton of money we don’t have? Also, sub-question, is there a meaningful difference between the two in the long run?

      Debt default in an otherwise free market economy can be recovered from quickly: the government is bankrupt, can’t borrow, and doesn’t pay things back, so the market takes over many of its functions.

      Debt default in an economy where a large portion is state-owned and state run is nearly impossible to recover from. Sure, the state can sell its assets, but government run functions are inefficient and corrupt, and there is nobody left in the private sector to take them over.

    6. I worked as a contractor on a Govt project some years ago. When I brought up an issue that would happen in the future I was told Government is reactive, not proactive.
      Yesterday an article quoted the investor Druckenmiller on this subject and he said nothing will happen until markets revolt. I think he is 100% correct.

  5. “If Not, Fiscal Conservatism Is Truly Dead.”

    This is a thoughtless headline. Clickbait perhaps. As soon as a Democrat is in the White House and Republicans control the House, Fiscal Conservatism will be back in vogue.

  6. By 2016, when he was a serious presidential candidate

    I must have missed that part of 2016.

    Often, he seems to want one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else.

    Just about everyone does that. Politicians just do it more.

  7. “It’s really anyone’s guess whether Trump was previously sincere in his desire to reduce America’s deficit and rein in the debt.”

    What’s truly anyone’s guess is whether anyone has ever written a more clueless sentence. Anyone with the slightest political intelligence knew that Trump would blow up the deficit even more aggressively than Reagan or Bush. Eric is lucky he was never
    a good-looking teenage girl, because if he were he’d probably have ended up giving massages to Jeffrey Epstein

    1. Truly you have a dizzying intellect

  8. The Dems and the Reps have reached a bi-partisan consensus on things they can agree on and you people just want to bitch. You should be happy that this is showing the American public that comity and cooperation can still work in Washington, that the polity is not hopelessly fractured and there’s still a chance we can work out our differences, agree to work together to achieve our common goals and bring a peaceful resolution to our disputes. I mean, sure, a murder/suicide pact isn’t what we might wish for, but maybe it’s the best we can do.

    1. LOL. Thanks for this. Damn near spit out my coffee laughing.

  9. It was Dick Cheney, way back in 2001, that said “deficits don’t matter”.

    Fact is, “fiscal conservatism” is not dead, because it was never alive. Any appearance of it is actually “stick it to the Dems” in drag.

    1. This. “Fiscal conservatism” is just a ghost that never lived… 😉

  10. Is fiscal conservatism dead?

    Well that depends. Is it all dead or mostly dead?

    I think it is mostly dead. Under the right conditions we could at least come closer to a balanced budget. The current admin and congress are nowhere near that.

    Anyone who thought Trump would control spending is a fool and knows nothing about how he has run his business and his life.

  11. All I know is, I’m going to keep my passport current and try to save as much money as I can.

    1. Good idea. In fact, why wait?

      Haha

    2. You could always put it in bitcoin, buy a boat and hang out with McAfee in Cuba. Prices are reasonable, good food, rum, and cigars, beaches and lots of pretty scenery walking by.

    3. Pedo Jeffy, given your predilections, perhaps Thailand would be a good destination for you.

  12. Jim Jordan should put on a fucking jacket. Even Rand Paul can manage an actual suit, and he does his hair with a rake.

  13. Just out of curiosity, if Trump vetos the spending bill, and the government shuts down how many stories will Reason run about how Trump is bad because he shutdown the government (not to mention CNN, MSNBC, etc because that is a given, hell even FNC and FBN will run a few).

    1. I’m not stating that Trump shouldn’t but some actual consistency on Reason’s part would be nice.

      1. What are you talking about? There are at least several articles per day consistently stating orange man bad.

        1. I stand corrected. LOL

        2. I mean they did run an article just a couple of days ago criticizing Trump for selling MAGA straws as a fundraiser because Trump bad.

          1. And just last December they ran multiple stories about how Trump allowing the Government to shut down was causing all this heartache. Albeit Trump’s motives were more about getting the funding he desired.

  14. Fiscal conservatism has been dead since WW2. Check the record. The most fiscally conservative President in our lifetime is Bill Clinton.

    1. Which shows that it really isnt the president.

      Clinton was not and is not a fiscal conservative. The congress under clinton was the only fiscally conservative congress in our lifetimes.

      The President is judged by whether or not he shuts down the government. His veto is a losing proposition because of how the media portrays gov shutdowns.

      Trump would sign a fiscally conservative bill just as quickly as he’ll sign one that is not. But Reason is blaming Trump and Republicans for not fighting hard enough or something. Never a critique of democrats.

    2. By imposition, not by inclination. It was because because he had a GOP Congrees for six years that was not inclined toward major spending increases and because his health care reform legislation in his first two years (which would have increased government spending greatly) died in Congress.

    3. By imposition, not by inclination. It was because because he had a GOP Congress for six years that was not inclined toward major spending increases and because his health care reform legislation in his first two years (which would have increased government spending greatly) died in Congress.

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  16. ”Unlike his feelings towards Mexican immigrants..”

    After reading that nonsensical statement, I could no longer read this article. The fact that Beohm would attempt to conflate ILLEGAL aliens with LEGAL immigrants is absurd and disappointing being that I was under the impression that reaon.com embraced objective truth. That flat out stupid claim is exactly the type of inflammatory language and low-resolution view of issues that creates division and confusion. Trump, along with his supporters, including myself, are pro-legal immigration. There is nothing wrong with upholding our constitution, Boehm. Unfortunately, the anti-American democrats have made a mess of things with their advocation for open-borders and constant false narratives in regards to our country while they break every immigration law on the books.

    While I am against this ridiculous spending bill, Trump is doing a damn fine job in all other areas. What a dumb comment to make in regards to immigration, though.

  17. But as Trump evolved from reality TV star to leader of the free world, a general concern about the nation’s growing mountain of debt was one of his more consistent positions—and, unlike his feelings towards Mexican immigrants,

    I’m an immigrant. It took a couple of decades to become a citizen. People who walk across the border illegally are not immigrants. And to conflate illegal trespass with immigration makes you an anti-immigrant prick, Boehm. Go to hell.

  18. “Fiscal conservatism” is a goofy misnomer. It’s used to imply conservatives want less government, which they don’t.

    Really, it should be used to mean “a desire to spend more on the military, cops, border walls, farmers, etc. etc.”

  19. […] Can the Freedom Caucus Convince Trump to Derail This Awful Budget Deal? If Not, Fiscal Conservatism … Eric Boehm, Reason […]

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