In politics, a "Kinsleyan gaffe" is defined as the misfortune of a politician inadvertently telling the truth. A new piece in the Daily Beast reports that President Trump myopically rebuffed early recommendations that his administration take policy steps to curb the country's unsustainably swelling national debt, privately telling aides that the eventual fiscal crash would happen on someone else's watch. If accurate -- and it's certainly plausible, given his campaign rhetoric -- this calculation combines irresponsible, short-sighted, buck-passing cynicism with frank honesty:
The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office. “Yeah, but I won’t be here,” the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt…Several people close to the president, both within and outside his administration, confirmed that the national debt has never bothered him in a truly meaningful way, despite his public lip service. “I never once heard him talk about the debt,” one former senior White House official attested.
As I wrote in this space not too long ago, neither of our political parties is truly serious about addressing this brewing crisis, or arresting our downward spiral. Republicans were full of sensible, forward-looking ideas and policies when those policies had no chance of implementation, but when they gained full power in Washington, the difficult, painful and necessary project of entitlement reform fell by the wayside. (I should note that the unsuccessful Obamacare repeal effort would have reformed one major program, and will remind readers that tax reform is emphatically not the cause of our fiscal difficulties). The president is simply not interested in leading on this issue, and he's reportedly told his subordinates precisely why that's the case. Liberals will undoubtedly decry this revelation as further evidence of Trump's recklessness and selfishness, but let's be serious: If the quote attributed to the president is accurate, he was simply stating outright what many, many politicians have privately concluded for years, all while feigning concern about the debt for public consumption.
The Obama administration, under which the national debt exploded to an unprecedented degree, vastly expanded an already-failing entitlement -- and now President Obama has endorsed the massive expansion of another already-insolvent program, which is already the top driver of our long-term debt. The math is empirical and could not be clearer, yet any and all efforts to tackle the predictable crisis have been reflexively rejected. I'll never forget the following exchange between Obama's Treasury Secretary and then-House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Ryan, one of a handful of politicians who actually seems to understand the urgency of the long-term debt challenge, confronted Timothy Geithner with the same sort of chart that apparently left Trump unmoved. Geithner outright admitted that Team Obama had no alternative solution, simply reaffirming that they opposed Ryan's reforms. Toggle ahead to the very end of this clip:
"You are right to say we are not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to that long term problem. What we do know is, we don't like yours."
Indeed, most Democrats have found far greater utility in attacking GOP policy ideas on this front -- often deeply dishonestly -- than presenting any viable proposals of their own. Their vision for more State control and more federal spending directly conflict with the ostensible goal of reducing our debt burden. Many politicians pay lip service to the national debt because that's what people want to hear -- even if many of those same voters bristle at the inherent realities of real solutions. Trump's alleged comment is maddening and disheartening, but at least he's being straightforward about his indefensible and self-serving neglect. I'll leave you with this reminder of the scope of the problem, not that anyone in power is going to do a damn thing about it. And if you missed my analysis this week, it's worth once again pointing out that the Left's supposed "ideas" for funding a breathtaking expansion of government healthcare are wildly unserious and unrealistic:
A memorable & important line from WaPo's brutal fact check of AOC's 'Medicare for All' financing fantasy: "Completely defunding the military for the next decade would yield only one-fifth of $32 trillion." https://t.co/P16RoW7LIR— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 5, 2018