Democrats and Republicans are blaming each other for a soaring federal budget deficit after figures released this week showed the 2018 deficit increased 17 percent from last year amid increased government spending and declining revenue.
The deficit rose to $779 billion in the 2018 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, an increase of $113 billion from 2017. That’s the highest in six years, according to numbers released by the U.S. Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The White House said bolstering military spending and budget agreements reached with Democrats in Congress had increased government spending, but officials claimed President Donald Trump’s economic policies would eventually bring in more tax revenue as the economy grows.
“The president is very much aware of the realities presented by our national debt,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said. “America’s booming economy will create increased government revenues—an important step toward long-term fiscal sustainability. But this fiscal picture is a blunt warning to Congress of the dire consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary spending.”
Trump told members of his Cabinet that he wanted to see proposals for 5 percent cuts within their departments to help lower spending. “It’s something we can actually do, and we can do it easily,” the president said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pointed the finger at ballooning spending on government entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. “It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” he told Bloomberg News. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”
Democrats quickly seized on McConnell’s remarks ahead of midterm elections to claim Republicans want to destroy the popular programs.
“Under the GOP’s twisted agenda, we can afford tax cuts for billionaires but not the benefits our seniors have earned,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.
The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said $164 billion of the deficit was a result of the tax cuts, while $68 billion came from a budget agreement, and those two items would make up an even larger share of the deficit next year.
“As expected, recent tax cuts and spending increases—all put on the national credit card—are making a bad problem even worse,” said Maya MacGuineas, the group’s president. —Anne K. Walters