- - Tuesday, March 12, 2019


The labor of industrious Americans pumps tax revenue into the U.S. Treasury by the billions and trillions of dollars, and it’s never enough. President Trump offers his administration’s budget proposal for 2020, attempting to tip government spending to favor national security priorities, and his adversaries are lined up to halt him in his tracks. Preserving the nation’s sovereignty while conserving its treasure is a fight worth having.

The Trump budget, titled “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” was released Monday, asking for $4.7 trillion in spending, with $750 billion earmarked for rebuilding the nation’s defenses, including border security. With the annual deficit on a trajectory to top $1 trillion by 2020, the president has proposed a 5 percent across-the-board cut in non-defense discretionary expenditures, resulting in $2.7 trillion in savings and a federal budget brought into balance by 2034. That, coincidentally, is when Social Security is projected to sink into insolvency.

“Our national debt nearly doubled under the previous administration and now stands at more than $22 trillion,” said Russ Vought, acting White House budget director, in an accompanying statement. “This budget shows that we can return to fiscal sanity without halting our economic resurgence while continuing to invest in critical priorities.”

When the last nickel is counted, tax revenues for fiscal 2019 are expected to reach the highest ever — more than $3.4 trillion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. But 140 million taxpayers can’t keep up with the largesse of the 535 members of Congress, which has a native talent for spending other people’s money. Congress is expected to overspend by about $900 billion this fiscal year and add to the mountain of national debt.

It’s a long-standing custom in Washington that a president’s spending plan be pronounced “dead on arrival.” Democrats of the current day regard Mr. Trump’s legislative efforts as stillborn, not viable from the first draft. In particular, the president requests $8.6 billion to pay for an additional 722 miles of barriers on the southern border. Though little more than pocket change in a budget measured in trillions, the request has provoked cries from Democrats itching to resume their war on the administration’s efforts to dam the flood of illegal immigrants, which now exceeds 70,000 per month.

“President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall,” Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said in advance of the release of the budget. “Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson.”

By opening the nation’s door for easy access by Latin America’s needy and preventing Mr. Trump from closing it, Democrats are jacking up the costs for mandatory entitlement programs that already account for more than 62 percent of the federal budget. In the long run, their policy would defeat the president and the rest of us.

Smokers, for example, know they’re slowly killing themselves with each cigarette they puff. They light up anyway. The dread effects lie somewhere over the horizon. Congress understands that relentless overspending caused the collapse of many a vibrant nation, but Democrats and some Republicans think they can escape being flattened in the inevitable crash.

It’s trendy to claim to be “woke” — attuned to the winds of change and ready to join the righteous crusade for long-awaited progress. But even the Tea Party couldn’t awaken a slumbering nation for more than a moment. “There are none so blind as those who will not see,” quoth John Heywood in the 16th century, and that’s as true today as in 16th-century London.

Much is riding on whether Donald Trump can succeed in stirring a resistant Congress to a new awareness of fiscal responsibility. He appears to be willing to engage in the fight to prick the budget balloon, something other presidents have avoided. Our friend John Heywood from the 16th century is renowned for another venerable adage, “Nothing is impossible to a willing heart.” But it won’t be easy.

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