Email #127: “a fiscally responsible budget”?

“Our $20 trillion national debt is a crisis, not just for the nation, but for every citizen,” said the President’s Budget Director Mulvaney when releasing the Trump budget plans last month. You have also expressed deep concern over the national debt, citing it as your core reason for wanting to reverse the ACA Medicaid expansion and eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans currently enrolled.

Given your and Mulvaney’s apparent concerns over the debt, I’m confused why the President’s proposed budget takes no steps toward debt reduction. How can the Budget Director declare a “crisis” in a statement attached to a proposal that then does nothing to address it? You also said nothing about the debt when responding to the proposed budget and instead applauded the planned $54 billion increase in defense spending – an amount that could reduce the national debt by 5% in a single year.

You said the President was “ensuring a strong national defense,” but if we can’t afford our current Medicaid program, how can we afford increased military spending?

The $54 billion, you claim, has been reallocated by “reducing bureaucratic waste.” This is not true. The money would be cut from nondefense discretionary programs which are currently funded at historically low levels. According to the Congressional Budget office, nondefense programs spending is at its lowest level in twenty years and far lower than it was fifty years ago. For example, the IRS is already working with $900 million less and the EPA with $2 billion less than they had in 2010.

I know that you are also aware that the President’s budget does not include his proposed infrastructure spending increase of $1 trillion – an amount that would increase the national debt by 5% in a single year. When asked why the President’s promised infrastructure programs were not part of the budget, Mulvaney said, “That was done intentionally” and that those increases would be presented separately.

If so, the President’s proposed budget is not his proposed budget. Although you lauded the budget and said that you “look forward to working with leaders in the House to pass a fiscally responsible budget that balances,” Mulveney’s statements promise a radically unbalanced budget, a fact you must have been fully aware of even as you praised the President.

Given your selective awareness for budget imbalances, and your inconsistent concerns about what the national debt does and does not prevent the government from affording, it is difficult to take your statements seriously. Do you care about the deficit, or is it just your bugbear for opposing domestic programs like health care? What principles other than political PR are your guidelines?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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