Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to rein in major government programs like Medicare, ignoring the fact the GOP tax law he recently passed has further grown that number.
“It’s very disturbing, and it’s driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. That’s 70 percent of what we spend every year,” McConnell said on Bloomberg News Tuesday when asked about the spiraling national debt. “There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully at some point here we’ll get serious about this. We haven’t been yet.”
Nearly a year ago, as the debate over Republican tax breaks for the wealthy was near its end, President Trump, Sen. McConnell and other GOP officials promised that the GOP tax bill would “pay for itself.”
“I not only don’t think it will increase the deficit, I think it will be beyond revenue neutral,” McConnell said in December 2017. “In other words, I think it will produce more than enough to fill that gap.”
NBC News reports:
Whether the GOP leader actually believed his own rhetoric is an open question, but either way, we now know the Kentucky senator’s claim was spectacularly wrong. The Republican tax breaks have, as Democrats and those familiar with arithmetic predicted, sent the nation’s budget deficit soaring.
Before we get into the broader implications of McConnell’s argument, it’s important to understand that we already know it’s the Republicans’ tax breaks for the rich that have made the deficit vastly larger. When McConnell calls the increased federal borrowing “very disturbing,” as he did this morning, it’s like watching an arsonist wring his hands over the ashes he created. The Senate GOP leader helped create this mess; he hasn’t earned the right to complain about it.
But these relevant details are really only part of the larger issue. During the debate over the Republican tax package, Democrats made a fairly obvious prediction: GOP policymakers would blow a giant hole in the budget and then use the shortfall as an excuse to target social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security (often referred to as “entitlements”). That is, of course, exactly what’s happening.
Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, said in September that he wants to tackle “entitlements” as early as “next year.”
A few months before Kudlow’s remarks, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he wants to see lawmakers bring the budget closer to balance by cutting “entitlements.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the budget deficit for 2019 will be just shy of $1 trillion and will eclipse $1 trillion in 2020. The CBO projected that the GOP tax cuts would add $1.9 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
A recent CRFB report found that legislation passed in the 2018 fiscal year will account for $445 billion worth of fiscal year 2019’s $973 billion budget deficit, or 46% of the total.
In total, legislation enacted in the 2018 fiscal year will add $2.4 trillion in new debt by 2027.
The loss of government revenue from the cuts has been a larger proportional loss than what was caused by the Great Recession, according to the New York Times.
“As expected, recent tax cuts and spending increases — all put on the national credit card — are making a bad problem even worse,” Maya MacGuineas, CRFB’s president, said in a statement. “It’s an unsustainable fiscal course that will lead us to debt overtaking the size of the entire economy in as soon as a decade, and not long after topping all-time highs as a share of the economy not seen since World War II.”