Government & Politics

The Axman Cometh

Trump takes office with an ambitious agenda.

Arnold Ahlert · Jan. 23, 2017

“The problem is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion dollars … so that we now have over $9 trillion dollars of debt that we are going to have to pay back. … That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic.” —Barack Obama, 2008

“When Obama entered office, he inherited a debt just north of $10 trillion. In compiling the second worst debt-to-GDP ratio among all presidents, he leaves office with one nearing $20 trillion … [and] as the only president not seeing GDP grow by 3 percent in a given year.” —Daniel Flynn, American Spectator

“Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending.” —Alexander Bolton, The Hill

“Courage. What makes a King out of a slave? Courage. What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.” —The Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz

Of the above quotes, the last one is by far the most important. That’s because the last time the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress and the presidency, the courage to stand by the limited government, fiscally responsible principles for which they ostensibly stood was nowhere to be found. Instead, “compassionate conservatism” became the rationale for the irresponsible Bush administration spending spree, topped only by the even more irresponsible, deeply hypocritical Obama administration’s double-down.

Thus, both parties have had a hand in bringing America to the brink of fiscal Armageddon. Yet it is the GOP, in the face of a monumental blowback from statist-adoring Democrats, entrenched interests and their media allies — all of whom will present the nation with an endless parade of those “victimized” by “unconscionable” budget cuts — who will either set this nation on a sustainable course, or retreat to their traditional spinelessness in the face of adversity.

President Donald Trump has laid out an ambitious agenda, aimed at cutting $10.5 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years. Toward that end he proposes major funding reductions and/or program eliminations at the departments of Commerce, Energy, State, Justice and Transportation. Privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and eliminating funding completely for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities are also part of the mix.

With regard to the latter three entities, it means taxpayers will no longer be funding NPR and PBS in a nation inundated with radio and TV stations. Nor will they be on the hook for subsidizing “uplifting” creations like Andrew Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” Robert Mapplethorpe’s collection of homosexual S&M photos, plays about anti-gun lesbians, climate change poetry, or zombie Macbeth. If such projects are as vital and viable as their leftist defenders claim, private sector funding will undoubtedly be forthcoming.

The administration’s ambitious agenda is being cobbled together by Russ Vought, former executive director of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), and former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, along with John Gray, who also worked for Pence, as well as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Both men also worked for the Heritage Foundation. It produced a “Blueprint for Balance,” a report that begins the process of eliminating wasteful and duplicative spending prior to addressing entitlement reform. Spending that reached $247 billion, as chronicled by Sen. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) in his “Federal Fumbles” report.

The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) 2016 annual report identified a series of actions that engender hundreds of billions of dollars in reduced spending as well, including $100 billion in savings from something as simple as the Pentagon sharing its excess ammunition other agencies, instead of destroying it.

A 175-200-page “skinny budget” document is expected within the first 45 days, outlining the Trump administration’s main priorities. In the meantime, Americans should expect the oh-so predictable reactions from the Left, “who think every cent of government spending is sacrosanct, [and] any budget cut means the end of the world,” as columnist Rachel Bovard describes it.

A possible bonus? “More than one in four federal workers, or 28 percent, will definitely or possibly consider leaving their jobs after Jan. 20 when Trump is sworn into office and becomes leader of the executive branch,” a survey conducted by the Government Business Council and Government Executive states. Federal workers who overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton for president, and who believe the election gave Americans a bad impression of civil service.

Perhaps. Or perhaps it was federal workers who left veterans waiting to die while they manipulated VA appointment schedules, watched porn two to six hours a day while at work, or spent $822,000 of taxpayer funds on a lavish blowout in Vegas, even as they earn an average of 16% more in total compensation than workers in the private sector. And even as the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) that ostensibly prevents them from getting fired for political reasons, and gives employees the right to appeal any termination — a process that can take as long as two years — makes them virtually immune from genuine accountability.

Again, America’s national debt is a staggering $19.9 trillion. If one adds unfunded liabilities to the mix, that number soars to over $100 trillion. For most Americans, both numbers are beyond comprehension. What is not beyond comprehension are stagnant wages, higher costs of living, generational inequality leading to decline, and ever-increasing interest payments — interest payments that could consume 45% of all federal taxes if they returned to their 1995 levels. On just the debt alone, unfunded liabilities not included.

America’s debt crisis is the most predictable one this nation has ever faced — which is precisely what makes it so infuriating. Nothing better illuminates the utter fecklessness of a ruling class that would rather buy the short-term approval of the public — literally — than deal with the unpleasant but vitally necessary task of preventing fiscal catastrophe.

Trump’s three best assets in this arena are his experience as a businessman, his ability to appoint knowledgeable experts, and the reality that, as an outsider, he owes neither political party any special considerations. Moreover, he is a man made for the bully pulpit, a platform he will undoubtedly use to (loudly) reinforce the idea that the days of nibbling around the edges of fiscal reform are over, and that the work of setting this nation on a sustainable course begins.

Democrats will fight him tooth and nail. Republicans would be wise to follow his lead, unless they’re dumb enough to believe they are immune to the decimation that has befallen Democrats — decimation engendered in no small part by their penchant for fiscal irresponsibility epitomized by ObamaCare. In short, it’s time for the GOP to make the hard choices, or face a possible “tsunami” election in 2018, led by Americans tired of being betrayed.

Winston Churchill once insisted one could “count on Americans doing the right thing, after exhausting all the other possibilities.” Trump is the personification of Americans exhausted by a federal government spending more than it takes in. It’s time to do the “right thing,” Mr. President.

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