There was a time when the release of the president’s budget was a red-letter day on the calendar of Washington wonkery, with policy experts and fiscal hawks delving into spreadsheets and expounding upon new spending plans and the national debt.
But the hoopla of budget day is gone, a relic of a time when politics were less polarized, the federal deficit drove political decisions and the White House and Congress still took the budget process seriously.
“It has seemed to me that budget day ain’t what it used to be,” said Robert Bixby, who has pored over the budget for more than 25 years at the Concord Coalition, a fiscal responsibility advocacy group. . . .
Trump’s acting budget director, Russell Vought, has said the budget aims to cut non-defense spending and cap spending under levels set in the 2011 Budget Control Act - a feat made possible only with an increase in an emergency account called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to cover Trump’s plan to increase defense spending.
The tactic makes a mockery of the budget process, said Bixby of the Concord Coalition.
“It’s nothing but an astronomical gimmick! It’s over the top! It’s so over the top, it’s clownish!” Bixby said.
With the national debt now topping $22 trillion and the deficit at $900 million in 2019, it is unlikely that Washington will find its way to fiscal discipline without an overhaul of the budget process, Bixby said.