Demagoguery and propaganda are enemies of good governance, but nowhere is that more apparent than in the federal budget, on which Democrats are shameless and too many Republicans are feckless.
Sages from American history presciently predicted that our republic would be in jeopardy if voters acquired the power to vote themselves money from the public trough. The U.S. Constitution did not contemplate that the federal government and federal politicians would be able to secure their elective offices through legislative transfers of wealth, but the sordid practice has been with us for decades, and we are paying the price.
Politicians can safely argue, in general terms, that we must balance the budget, but when they dare to provide specifics, they face charges of heartlessness. Well, it used to be heartlessness. Now Democrats have sunk to further depths to describe Republican efforts to cut or even just reduce the rate of spending increases as hateful, mean-spirited and simply evil. Never mind that if we don't quit this recklessness, someday we'll witness a fiscal catastrophe that will devastate the very people Democrats are pretending to protect.
Some sanguine politicians and pundits through the years have glibly dismissed concerns over the explosive growth of the deficits and debt as hyperventilating. "We'll be fine. What's all the fuss?"
Sadly, these experts on everything except common sense fail to recognize that when you continue to ignore the main drivers of federal spending, eventually they are going to be virtually impossible to reform, and in the meantime, they will severely retard economic growth.
Liberals have an easy job. All they need to do is promise benefits and apply dishonest marketing strategies to paint themselves as caring and their opponents as ogres. They don't need to designate how those benefits will be funded, and they slam the so-called rich for not paying their fair share — an abominably false claim.
With health care, for example, they make insurance coverage the issue rather than affordable, accessible health care with maximum consumer choice over health care providers and insurance plans. This insurance coverage criterion is grossly misleading but effective at deceiving the public.
Our health care system under Obamacare is unsustainable, yet Democrats will not help reform it. Our federal fiscal condition is unsustainable, yet Democrats actively obstruct any real remedies.
President Obama didn't even try to balance the budget with any of his unrealistically optimistic projected budgets. He didn't even bother because he wasn't worried about the government's living within its means. He was focused on transferring wealth and using taxpayer money to fund a smorgasbord of leftist projects, from environmental boondoggles to dangerous Iranian nuclear deals.
President Trump's first budget, however, exposes fault lines throughout the political system, not just among Democrats. To his credit, Trump at least aspires to balance the budget within 10 years based on certain growth assumptions. He proposed substantial spending reductions (at least reductions in the rate of increase and some actual cuts — e.g., $1.4 trillion from Medicaid, $1.5 trillion from nondefense discretionary spending, $274 billion from certain welfare programs and some from Social Security disability) in certain areas that even some Republican politicians have previously been afraid to tackle, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the State Department, including welfare reform.
Democrats and liberal commentators didn't wait half a news cycle to descend on Trump with full-throated moral condemnation. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump's budget is "literally a killer" for the American people. The always winsome Hillary Clinton denounced the budget as "an unimaginable level of cruelty." MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Trump's budget is "hateful" and people are "scared as hell." Where have you gone, Joe (DiMaggio)? MSNBC's Chris Matthews said the budget was written for "the wealthy people." Republican John McCain and sidekick Lindsey Graham piously pronounced the proposal DOA.
So plaudits for Trump for these relatively bold proposals. Regrettably, however, Trump did not include any provisions to reform Medicare or Social Security retirement benefits. This is no surprise, because Trump campaigned on protecting these entitlements. The current proposals for health care reform also cloud the issue in a way that can't yet be measured.
So here's where we are. Trump deserves serious credit for his proposed action on discretionary spending — credit because these necessary cuts are the very type that lend themselves to Democratic and media demagoguery. He also deserves credit for at least trying to balance the budget in the next decade. We need to call out demagogic leftist critics for fraudulently framing these efforts as cruel and for deliberately ignoring that we have a duty to rein in spending.
On the other hand, conservatives need to talk truth to Trump about the entitlements that his present budget fails to address. Admittedly, the Democrats' reaction to these proposed cuts in discretionary spending is just a foretaste of what they'd do if Trump were to propose reforming entitlements. Regardless, if Trump wants to make a long-term impact on America's fiscal stability, he must address entitlements within the next few years.
With that caveat, I'm praising Trump for the good-faith incremental steps he's taken with this budget. Let's give praise where it's due and constructively criticize when appropriate.