The Trump administration’s profligate fiscal policies may have contributed to the US default on its debt and trigger a government shutdown by blocking legislation to avoid these outcomes. During Trump’s four years in office, the MAGA Republicans regularly raised the debt ceiling and kept the deficit-ridden federal government open. However, when a Democrat won the 2020 election and became president, MAGA Republicans became deficit and debt hawks.
The federal budget needs to be significantly cut to help reduce the nation’s colossal budget deficits and debt. However, such reductions are politically difficult due to both parties’ powerful vested interests. Two-thirds of federal spending is autopilot, providing benefits to qualified individuals, while 8% is fueled by increasing interest payments and rising national debt of $33 trillion. About half of the remaining quarter of the budget is ever-ballooning defense spending and the other approximately half is domestic discretionary spending.
Entitlement programs are where the pot of gold is in the federal government, and no serious budget-cutting plan should leave out entitlement reform. Former Vice President Mike Pence has trumpeted it so far in the Republican primaries, while former President Donald Trump has always promised he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare. Both parties have learned that pledging to cut entitlements is a political loser due to powerful interest group support.
Powerful interest groups denounce cuts in other programs, such as the federal security bureaucracies, defense industries, and media, which spend almost $900 billion per year to police the informal U.S. global empire. Supporting an offensively oriented military designed to project power around the world would not align with the nation’s founders’ conception of patriotism.
The founders of the nation were skeptical of large standing armies in peacetime, leading to threats to liberty and overweening government power. Public support for keeping large forces on hand is relatively recent. The American military budget is larger than the top ten defense spending countries combined, including China and Russia. To reduce budget deficits and debt, the US should choose what it needs to defend, leaving the rest to its wealthy allies and friends. This restrained security posture would allow for cuts in forces, bases, and defense budget, ultimately reducing budget deficits and debt.