When a Democrat is in the Oval Office, Republicans say deficits are the most crucial economic matter facing the government and has to be addressed. When President Obama took office and called for major spending to improve the nation’s infrastructure and provide jobs, Republicans opposed it.
After this week’s elections, the GOP is singing a different tune:
Sen. David Perdue (R-.Ga) stood on the Senate floor a little more than one month ago and declared that “we have a budget crisis. We have a debt crisis.” Two weeks ago, he wrote in an op-ed that “President Obama’s budgets ignored fiscally responsible principles, instead leaving an ever-growing mountain of debt for taxpayers down the road,” and he urged the United States to pass a balanced-budget amendment ensuring that the government can’t spend more than it takes in.
But asked about President-elect Donald Trump’s fiscal plans on Wednesday morning, Perdue sounded much less of an urgent note.
“Well, I think there’s a short-term view and a long-term view. What we need is a long-term strategy, and by long-term, I’m talking, you’re going to say, 30 to 40 years to solve this debt crisis eventually,” Perdue said in an interview on CNBC.
Perdue’s comments could be one sign of how the politics of debt in Washington may shift when Trump takes office Jan. 20. Under George W. Bush, the nation’s debt exploded with federal spending and tax cuts, often with the consent of Republicans in Congress. But over the past eight years, the Republican establishment has repeatedly excoriated President Obama for plans that don’t immediately balance the budget.
Yet Trump’s proposals — which include an unprecedented $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan over 10 years and trillions more in tax cuts — would grow the debt far more than under current law.
In one way, then, Trump’s economic agenda shares more features with the plans proposed by some liberals, who tend to downplay concerns about the debt in favor of jump-starting economic growth through government spending.
Republicans intentionally blocked efforts to improve the economy during a Democratic president’s term to make sure people remained hurting economically. But now that they realize they’re in power in January, deficits don’t matter.