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Saturday, Feb 24, 2018
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Ruth: Republicans suddenly could care less about federal deficits

In the Potemkin presidency of Donald Trump, what a difference a year can make.

You’ll recall during the Barack Obama era that Congress was so penurious it was a wonder the president of the United States wasn’t forced to travel to a G-7 conference in Japan aboard an Allegiant Airlines flight with stops in Des Moines, Flagstaff, Juneau and La Paz.

But now it is all "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" on the Potomac. That’s okay. We’re allowed to like French stuff again. They throw fabulous parades.

Trump’s proposed $4.4 trillion budget for 2019 is ripe with lavish defense spending and $1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure air kisses. If you happen to like stuff like the environment, you are probably just one of those nagging liberal types who doesn’t appreciate how cool a new aircraft carrier is, especially being towed down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump’s budget also includes deep cuts to Medicare and food stamps. Why not? Who needs Medicare when you have aspirin? And Fancy Feast isn’t so bad if you add a dollop of ketchup.

During the Obama years, in which Congress grudgingly kept the government barely open through a series of miserly continuing resolutions, it was to the tune of Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

The tight-fisted, patronizing Congress was so averse to giving Obama any fiscal leeway it was almost the Washington equivalent of Ward Cleaver giving the Beaver his weekly 75-cent allowance.

But we have entered the Trump years, and this calls for a musical interlude. "No use permitting some prophet of doom to wipe every smile away. Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret old chum. Come to the cabaret."

Or Congress. It’s just as much fun these days.

During Obama’s eight years, the president wanted to go to regular order but Congress said no, no, no. Republican fiscal hawks, tea party grumps, alt-right talking heads on Fox News and the radio, all inveighed against a Democratic president’s budget requests as commie-inspired, profligate, irresponsible, tax-and-spend raids on the exchequer that would plunge the nation ever deeper into debt and turn future generations into Monty Python and the Holy Grail serfs.

If you want to be outraged by the duplicitous double standards, go ahead. But since all the partisan obstructionism was always so obviously cravenly hypocritical, we should not be surprised to learn the congressional Republicans would morph into the Sultans of the Beltway the minute they (sort of) gained control of a White House that is so dysfunctional it makes the Kardashians look like the Waltons.

Trump, like so many politicians, campaigned for the job promising to run government like a business. And he has, if you think of this as suddenly discovering Floyd the Barber in control of the nuclear codes.

To be sure, Democrats are the more than willing co-conspirators in the Trump budget bacchanalia. After all, everybody gets a bit of something.

The president gets all manner of boom-boom toys to play with in trying to impress North Korea with how big he is. Corporate America gets fewer regulations and more government contracts all spread out across the political landscape. And the Democrats will eventually get Dreamers on the slow path to citizenship.

And by 2028, the deficit, which was once treated as a fiscally transmitted disease by conservatives as long as a Democrat lived in the White House, is expected to reach $7 trillion. To paraphrase the late, great Illinois Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen, a trillion here, a trillion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

Only in Trump’s "Me Who Must Be Obeyed" world of Washington would signing off on a $1.5 trillion tax cut that benefits the already handsomely wealthy, combined with a $4.4 trillion budget, add up to perfect monetary sense.

We have learned what we already know. That when Washington politicians bray about how much they care about the children of tomorrow being burdened with draconian debt passed on them by a spendthrift Congress, they don’t give a rat’s patootie about a bunch of future kiddos. Not when there are elections to be won and checks to be cashed.

Massive tax cuts for the super-rich, while the rest of the country gets crumbs. Extravagant budget lines for the military-industrial complex, while seniors and the poor face having their safety nets shredded. And if you sort of appreciate air — well good luck with that.

And this is how you make Donald Trump’s America grovel again.

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Opinion

Ruth: Republicans suddenly could care less about federal deficits