It’s time for America to pursue “a fiscally sustainable course,” President Donald Trump says. He declared that “federal agency budgets cannot sustain” the fiscal impact of a 2.1 percent pay increase scheduled for 1.8 million federal employees. So he canceled it last month.
This is a president who blew a massive hole in the federal deficit with his $1.5 trillion tax cut on top of signing a $1.3 trillion spending bill. He proposes spending another $1 trillion on infrastructure projects around the country. Then there’s his $25 billion effort to build a southern border wall. Don’t forget the $12 billion payout to American farmers to compensate them for losses from the trade war he provoked with China, Mexico, Canada and Europe.
But now it’s time to talk about fiscal responsibility. Trump invoked a federal code that allows the cancellation if “national emergency or serious economic conditions” endanger the nation’s welfare. This is a president who rarely lets a day to go by without noting what he believes is the historic strength of the U.S. economy. Finally, fiscal reality has come crashing down on the president’s budgetary fantasy world.
Trump’s decision could come at a steep political cost, considering these are 1.8 million people who, along with their spouses, are more likely than the average American to vote in the November elections. Trump also will wind up penalizing the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees he so regularly praises for their work deterring illegal immigration. No matter how much he likes the job they’re doing, they won’t be seeing his appreciation in their paychecks.
His fellow Republicans in the Virginia suburbs outside the District of Columbia, home to thousands of federal employees, definitely recognize the political repercussions.
“We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees, and I will work with my House and Senate colleagues to keep the pay increase in our appropriations measures that we vote on in September,” Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, wrote in a statement. Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia, tweeted his opposition as well. Both are regarded vulnerable in November.
If Trump truly cared about fiscal responsibility — which is a longstanding pillar of his party’s platform — he would have done the math before embarking on a tax cut that has pushed the federal deficit up 34 percent since fiscal year 2017. For the year ending Sept. 30, the deficit is projected to stand at $890 million, a level not seen since the Great Recession.
The words Trump speaks are designed to make working-class Americans think he’s fighting for them, while his actions signify the opposite intent. The ballooning deficit is the result of Trump’s irresponsible tax cut. Now he wants hard-working federal employees to pay for it.