Free Minds & Free Markets

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney: 'We Need to Have New Deficits'

The former deficit hawk gets budget-busting religion now that he holds real power.

Chris Wallace and Mick Mulvaney ||| Fox NewsFox NewsIn March 2015, just after a newly sworn in Congress had celebrated the GOP retaking the Senate by passing a budget that blew through the spending discipline of the previous four years, Mick Mulvaney, then a leading fiscal conservative in the House of Representatives, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed under the headline: "The Republican Budget Is a Deficit Bust." In it, the House Freedom Caucus member complained that, compared to the hold-the-line days of 2011, "debt and deficits" were now "passé," and stated uncategorically that "There is no honest way to justify not paying for spending, no matter how often my fellow Republicans try."

Well, at least he warned us.

This weekend, Mulvaney, now director of the Office of Management and Budget, went on Fox News Sunday to defend President Donald Trump's framework for tax reform. Host Chris Wallace pointed out that many analysts believe Trump's plan would blow a bigger hole in the national debt. "Now, back when you were in Congress, you were a deficit hawk," the anchor said. "What happened, sir?"

While the real answer seems obvious enough—the GOP's fiscal discipline is forever in inverse proportion to the amount of power it holds—watching Mulvaney swap spending-cuts hardassery for the fairy dust of economic growth is still a marvel to behold:

I've been very candid about this. We need to have new deficits because of that. We need to have the growth, Chris. If we simply look at this as being deficit-neutral, you're never going to get the type of tax reform and tax reductions that you need to get to sustain 3 percent economic growth. We really do believe that the tax code is what's holding back the American economy....

Growth really is what's driving all of this, and growth is what our focus is, which is why we're willing to accept increased short-term deficits in exchange for that long-term payoff....

Without 3 percent growth, Chris, you'll never balance the budget at 1.8 percent growth again. And as the budget director—you asked me an opening question, what happened to me? Why am I, why am I now interested in deficits? The only way you balance the budget in this country long-term is through sustained economic growth. And that's what everything we are doing in this administration is aimed at that end goal.

Mulvaney does make some good noises in the interview about the administration's vigorous regulatory work, on which he is a key player. But his abject surrender on spending cuts, coming after a month of debt ceiling hikes, $700 billion defense bills, hurricane blank checks, and ominous debt milestones, is emblematic of what his old Freedom Caucus pal Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) means when he says, "It's looking as bad as any time I've seen since I've been in Congress."

Tax cuts and regulatory reform in isolation can indeed spur growth. But do you know what dampens the stuff? Debt. That's why observers such as National Review's Kevin Williamson call Mulvaney's baby "An Anti-Growth Tax Cut," remarking: "Republicans want to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion—while the government already is running a deficit—and they propose to offset those cuts with wishful thinking."

Mulvaney used to be a leading realist in the face of such Beltway fantasia, but now he's been reduced to being Trump's Freedom Caucus arm-twister on budget gimmickry, Obamacare revamps, and even reviving the long-hated Export-Import Bank. As he wrote in his Wall Street Journal piece just 30 months ago, "Because of the hard decisions that defense hawks and deficit hawks had made together, Republicans were gaining the moral high ground on spending. Last week we lost it, and it will be harder to regain the next time." No kidding.

Some related Reason headlines:

* "The GOP's New Tax Plan Proves Republicans Never Cared About the Federal Deficit"

* "Politicians Will Disappoint You"

* "Trump's Half-Baked Budget"

* "Trump Budget: The Return of Rosy Scenario?"

* "Hey Libertarians: Prepare To Be Disappointed in Trump's 10-Year Budget Plan"

And from the video division, "Why We Need To Shrink the National Debt, And Fast!"

Photo Credit: Fox News

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • BYODB||

    Gotta love a guy with a racial slur as a first name.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And part of a Seinfeld gag as a last name.

  • Rhywun||


  • Brandybuck||

    Win one for the gipple!

  • Stormy Dragon||

    People are not loyal to philosophical concepts, they're only loyal to other people. When someone starts talking about philosophy to justify a decision they made, they're probably just rationalizing a decision that was actually made for other reasons.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Completely untrue.

  • chemjeff||

    Quelle surprise.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Fuck you, cut spending!

  • swampwiz||

    Fuck you, raise taxes!

  • Sir Chips Alot||

    there is nothing stopping you from sending more of your money to the government. Send a check to the US Treasury

  • DenverJ||

    Cut taxes and spending at the same time. I mean, come on, it's not rocket surgery.

  • DenverJ||

    Or, what Frank said.

  • Charles Easterly||

  • Brandybuck||

    Cut spending and taxes will follow. Cut taxes and Republicans suddenly love their deficits.

  • Rich||

    "There is no honest way to justify not paying for spending, no matter how often my fellow Republicans try."

    Pshaw. It's called "raising the Debt Ceiling".

  • ||

    Yup. According to Mulvaney, raising the debt ceiling is the honest and just means of paying for spending. It's totally not an example of how Congress willingly lies to themselves and everyone else every couple of months.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The FYCS Party.

  • Juice||

    We really do believe that the tax code is what's holding back the American economy.

    Too bad it's not the only thing.

  • Brandybuck||

    Republicans: The party of fiscal conservatives, limited government, and restrained powers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    How are they not a socialist party again?

  • Brandybuck||

    They don't believe in equality of misery.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The left is so bad that it's easy to forget that the right isn't much better, especially in power. Wish there was a stronger libertarian movement in the U.S.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Wish there was a stronger libertarian movement in the U.S.

    You'd think...eventually...people would come to the realization that both sides suck and would go looking for a responsible alternative.

    But no. Americans have the government they deserve. There will be no liberty movement until people actually value liberty.

  • Rich||

    We really do believe that the tax code is what's holding back the American economy.

    Well, by golly, then abolish it!

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    As always, they suggest adding more to 'fix it'.

  • CE||

    Not if more people had voted for Gary Johnson.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney: 'We Need to Have New Deficits'

    This ruling elitist turd is correct.
    We all need to have more deficits like we all need a new case of the clap.

  • Kroneborge||

    I for one am shocked...

  • swampwiz||

    So it's better to have growth in a recovered economy (now) rather than in the midst of the sharpest recession in 80 year? Or is the difference that it was the other party that wanted the Keynesian stimulus?

  • ||

    The final outcome is that either the American state collapses under it's debt, or it confiscates everything and then slowly collapses as it still will not be able to pay for the debt. I don't see another way given the government agenda for the last century or so.

  • Crazy mick||

    This is the good old republican magic trick... "We'll cut taxes and increase spending but we'll grow so fast it won't matter. Look at this Laffer curve we drew on this whiteboard!" Except it never has worked and never will. The Dems are at least honest about blowing up the budget, it's just insulting how two faced the GOP is.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online