Washington Watch: Starve the beast

That’s where McConnell comes in. In the tragic event Trump is reelected, he will press for another tax cut.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana, U.S., October 11, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana, U.S., October 11, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
Donald Trump and his faithful sidekick Mitch McConnell are hatching a reverse Robin Hood plan. It will kick off in 2020 but the big reveal won’t come out until next year unless voters wise up to the destruction this duo is plotting.
Here’s how it works.
Trump will campaign on a promise for another giant tax cut like the one he got enacted in 2017. He’d like to do it during the campaign, but he knows Democrats in Congress don’t want to be complicit in another deficit explosion to benefit the richest Americans. That’s fine with Trump because it will give him an issue to use against the Democrats.
“I want to cut your taxes and the Democrats want to raise them,” he’ll rant at rallies and in tweets. “Democrats want to give you freebies you can’t afford – free health care, free tuition, free everything – and then raise your taxes to pay for their hairbrained schemes.”
In Phase 2, Republicans will gather in secret for the sacred ritual or returning to their true religion: deficit hawks.
After four years of unfettered Trump spending and record deficits, they will return to Washington in January 2021, regardless of who wins the White House or the Congress. In shock and horror they will discover deficits, and piously call for a holy war.
That’s where McConnell comes in. In the tragic event Trump is reelected, he will press for another tax cut.
The plan is out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook. It’s called “starving the beast.” It begins by cutting taxes and raising deficits so high they threaten to deprive the federal government of vital revenue so it is forced to cut spending. Guess where they plan to get that money.
 By then it’s no coincidence that a Reagan alum is now pushing the idea on Trump. Larry Kudlow, now Trump’s top economic adviser, wrote in a 1996 op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal, “Tax cuts will starve the beast.” The beast he had in mind was “Social Security, health care, education and the environment.”
McConnell shares that view. The intensely partisan Senate Majority Leader now says deficits caused by the tax bill he helped ram through the Congress on largely party line votes are now “a bipartisan problem.” In the 2017 floor debate, he said it would pay for itself. “I not only don’t think it will increase the deficit, I think it will be beyond revenue neutral,” he said. As Democrats predicted, that wasn’t true; they were also right in saying he’d use those giant deficits he was helping to create as an excuse to shred the social safety net by cutting entitlements long hated by conservatives.
A report out this week by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that as a result of those tax cuts, there was a sharp decline in federal revenues from hundreds of large corporations.
Trump, never one encumbered by facts, is running for reelection claiming he’s performed miracles on the economy. His much-touted great tax cut of 2017 went to big corporations and the wealthy, like himself and his rich supporters, and there was very little trickle down.
Trump will take credit for the stock market and unemployment records. Two records he’ll ignore are the growing trade and budget defects. Nor will he be mentioning that the economy is growing at around 2%, not the “4, 5 and maybe even 6%” that he promised.
The 2017 tax cuts for those at the top were permanent and temporary for the working class, even though Trump billed it as “massive relief” for middle-class families. He’s doing it again. He’s been talking about another “very major tax cut for middle-income people.”
It’s the Trump-McConnell two step. Republicans will need to win control of both chambers of Congress and the White House to pull it off.
After years of sending deficits skyrocketing and saying they didn’t matter, November 4, 2020, will see the resurrection of the Republican deficit hawks whatever the outcome of the election.
It has begun. The administration just made another deep slash in food stamp benefits in the name of cutting federal spending. It will cost nearly 700,000 of America’s “poorest and most destitute people” their basic food assistance, according to Robert Greenstein, the president and founder of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
In case you were worried, there will be no cuts in the president’s spending on golf outings. Forbes reports that in his first 30 months, Trump made 193 golf outings, all but three to his own properties, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $105 million. Much of that money goes right into Trump’s pockets, even down to the cost of meals and rooms and golf carts for the Secret Service. The Huffington Post estimated his golf outings have cost taxpayers the equivalent of 287 years of his $400,000 annual salary, which he gives back to the government. Better he should keep the salary and pay for his own golf.
“It’s becoming abundantly clear that Donald Trump uses his presidency as a way to put money into his pocket,” said Jordan Libowitz of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Someone has to pay, and if Trump and McConnell get their way, it will come out of the benefits checks of Social Security and Medicare recipients. (At 73, Trump is eligible for both, but since his taxes are a state secret we don’t know if he’s pocketing that, too.)
When George W. Bush won a second term in 2004 he said he planned to use some of his new political capital to privatize Social Security. Had he succeeded and millions of Americans put some of their Social Security funds into the stock market they’d have lost it all within three years when Bush led the country into the Great Recession. He dropped the idea in the face of bipartisan opposition.
Look for Trump, McConnell and Republicans to try that again, possibly with some other schemes like stopping increases, raising the eligibility age and transferring parts to the states. They’ll say it is in the name of protecting the longevity of the entitlements but if they were honest about saving Social Security all they need to do is make the wealthy pay their fair share.
According to Forbes, “one-third of retirees are dependent on Social Security for 90% or more of their income, and over 60% depend on the program for more than half of their income.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is up for reelection next year, and some other Republicans want to “reform” entitlements but say it should be done in secret “so we’re not being scrutinized” by voters and the media.
If you receive or expect some day to receive Social Security or Medicare benefits, or know someone who might, let them know your futures will be at stake in the 2020 elections.