"Shields and Brooks on budget deal economics, White House domestic abuse scandal" PBS NewsHour 2/9/2018
SUMMARY: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the bipartisan budget deal that increases spending and add to the deficit, President Trump’s defense of a White House aide accused of domestic abuse, and questions about the future of Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Judy Woodruff (NewsHour): And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, I’m sorry, Mark, to go from that great music in Appalachia to talking about the budget. But that was the big thing that passed in the wee hours of this morning. The President signed it today. Both parties somehow came together.
What does it say about their priorities?
Mark Shields, syndicated columnist: Well, first of all, Judy, step back.
And Edmund Burke, who was a friend of mine the 18th Century…
Mark Shields: … conservative, said 'all government is Compromise and barter. And this was.'
This was a compromise and barter. Each side got some things they wanted and other things they didn’t. So that is sort of — it evokes echoes of an earlier era in this city. At the same time, it was…
Judy Woodruff: You mean because they agreed?
Mark Shields: Because they agreed. And the parties were split. It wasn’t unanimous on one side or anything of the sort.
But, that said, I think it’s fair to say that the deficit itself is now dead as an issue. All of us have gone to Republican Conventions where it was solemnly sworn that they would be for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. That’s over.
Maya MacGuineas was on the show earlier today. And she has been very conscientious, very effective. But there is no move now. The debt is out of control. We went from were borrowing $436 billion more this year than we did last year, and that’s even before this latest agreement.
So, Republicans — Bill Clinton did balance the budget. Nothing since has been remotely approaching that.
Judy Woodruff: So, David, red ink as far as the eye can see forever and ever?
David Brooks, New York Times: It was a compromise, but it’s the kind of compromise we always see.
Ever since we came, or since our segment started — maybe as Burke and Paine in the 18th century — it was…
They have been able to compromise when it comes to expanding the deficits. And that’s consistently been true over the past many years.
If you’re just — if every side gets to spend on what they want to spend, that’s the way they can compromise. They have never been able to compromise when both parties have to take some pain. And so that’s the kind of compromise they can’t do.
What strikes me as special about this is that everyone is a hypocrite on the deficits. They’re all for cutting red ink when they’re in the minority and they’re all against it when they’re in the majority.
But there is a shift in tone in the Republican Party that seems interesting to me, which is, it used to be a party that talked the language of economics first. Its native language was economics, an economic language, and so the budget really did sort of matter, and the budget really mattered, and tax cuts mattered.
Now economics is a secondary language for the Republican Party. Immigration is the first language. It’s an identity Party, not an economic party, right now. And so they’re willing to compromise on a lot of spending if they can win on immigration. And that’s sort of where the party has gone.
Judy Woodruff: And because immigration wasn’t part of this deal, Mark, as David, that’s how the Republicans were able to sign on.
Mark Shields: It wasn’t. It wasn’t a part of this.
Judy Woodruff: That’s what I said, that it wasn’t.
Mark Shields: No, no, and that — I think it’s fair to say, though, Judy, that if the Senate were determinant, I think there’s at least 60 votes in the Senate, and maybe even a solid veto-proof majority, for immigration reform that provides relief for these young people who were brought here as children and who have been contributing members of our society ever since.
But it’s the Republican House, and it’s in particular the anti-immigration caucus that paralyzes Paul Ryan.
But I just — I do want to point out one thing on the deficit itself. We went through two World Wars, the Civil War, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Great Depression, and ran up a total indebtedness of $1 trillion. And the Democrats were accused of being the tax-and-spend party.
And then we got the tax cut and spend. The debt quadrupled, quadrupled, under Reagan and Bush, and that really set the pattern. It was successful politically.
Bill Clinton, for all his failings and all his foibles, in eight years went from the biggest deficits in our country to the biggest surpluses. So, now we have had 17 years of war financed by three tax cuts, I mean, which I think does reflect what David was talking about.
Judy Woodruff: So is one party or another more responsible for this, David, or is there blame to go around?
David Brooks: I do think there is blame to go around. Deficits tend to come down when we have divided government.
When one party has control, deficits go up, because they can spend on their priorities. And the Democrats like spending. The Republicans love tax cuts. You get a little of both.
I’m not a big believer in third parties, but if there is a third party movement, I suspect the debt will be a big part of that. Remember how powerful that issue was for Ross Perot.
Judy Woodruff: Yes.
David Brooks: And so we can say deficits are going away as an issue, but deficits aren’t going away as a reality.
And as interest rates go up, the burden of paying just down the debt begins to swallow more and more of the budget. It cuts out of the defense spending. It cuts out of domestic discretionary spending. And you just become a government that just pays bankers. And that could be a gigantic issue, especially as interest rates rise.
Mark Shields: And I would just point out, for those who think about deficits at all, the borrowing on the interest rate, Judy, and the payment of the debt to bondholders is a transfer from people of ordinary income to the wealthiest Americans.
It’s an absolute anti-decency transfer of wealth to people who have to pay their taxes in order to pay off bondholders.