Policymakers Should Set Responsible Spending Levels

Dec 11, 2018 | Other Spending

For Immediate Release

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration appeared poised to recommend new discretionary spending levels that would have reduced non-defense spending by 5 percent relative to this year and defense spending by 2 to 3 percent to $700 billion total (including war spending). Recent press reports suggest the Administration may be abandoning this proposal and instead will propose to increase defense spending to as much as $750 billion.

Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the following in response:

As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and others have warned, the national debt is the country’s most serious national security threat. For the sake of our economy and security, we must not continue to worsen it.

Policymakers have increased defense spending by 13 percent in the past two years, with no plan to pay for that increase. It would be irresponsible to consider further debt-financed spending hikes.

Even the President’s initial proposal to allow a 2 to 3 percent decline in defense spending would still leave 2020 spending 10 percent above 2017 spending, which would cost the federal government about $50 billion in 2020 alone. Increasing defense spending to $750 billion would double that cost to $100 billion. The deficit would rise even further if, as in past budget deals, new defense spending was coupled with non-defense spending increases.

With the budget deficit headed toward the trillion-dollar mark, we cannot continue to pursue fiscally irresponsible tax and spending proposals.

Instead of repeating this year’s mistake of trading massive defense hikes for massive non-defense increases – and sticking our kids with the bill – policymakers should reach agreement on reasonable, responsible, and sustainable spending levels.

Agreed-upon defense and non-defense spending may exceed current law sequester-level caps, but the cost should be fully paid for with alternative budget savings or new revenue.

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For more information contact Ben Tomchik, deputy chief of staff, at tomchik@crfb.org.