WASHINGTON ― Citing the Bible and expressing his sympathies in advance, Republican South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford savaged President Donald Trump’s budget proposal Wednesday as a “myth” and a “lie,” hammering the White House’s spending plan more thoroughly than any Democrat.
Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina who has a contentious relationship with the White House, simply did not accept the contention offered by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a House Budget Committee hearing that the economy is going to grow at 3 percent for the next 10 years.
The White House uses that growth estimate to argue that, despite cutting taxes dramatically for the wealthy, tax revenues will actually rise so that the budget will balance in 10 years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates growth rates of just 1.9 percent.
“I have looked every which way at how you might get there, and you can’t get there,” Sanford told Mulvaney.
The South Carolinian, who describes himself as a budget hawk, went on to lay out all the ways that using a bogus estimate is terrible.
“What it does is it perpetuates a myth that we can go out there and balance the budget without touching entitlements,” Sanford said. “It’s not only a myth, it’s frankly a lie.”
Sanford offered some basic history to challenge Mulvaney’s assumptions. For starters, he noted that the average economic expansion in all U.S. history lasts about 58 months. The current expansion begun under President Barack Obama has been underway for 94 months. The Trump budget, Sanford noted, assumes that will continue uninterrupted for an additional 214 months.
“This budget presumes a Goldilocks economy, and I think that’s a very difficult thing on which to base a budget,” Sanford said. He also noted that the Bible cautions against building a house on sand.
Sanford took specific aim at the unemployment, growth and inflation rates the budget relies on.
“Can you guess the last time we had an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, growth at 3 percent, and inflation held at 2 percent?” Sanford asked. “It’s never happened,” he answered, when Mulvaney didn’t.
After pointing to other assumptions in the budget that have never happened, Sanford argued that to get the growth rates assumed by the budget, it would take a return to economic and demographic circumstances that haven’t existed since the 1950s and 1960s. That was when women were entering the workforce, highways were being expanded, appliances were first flooding the markets, productivity was skyrocketing, and the Baby Boomers were going to work, rather than retiring en masse.
“Even if we went to 1990 numbers, we would only see one-quarter of what is necessary to achieve 3 percent growth,” Sanford said.
Sanford said there was a reason he took a blowtorch to Mulvaney’s numbers ― because Congress can’t have a real debate about making cuts if it’s using phony numbers.
“Literally, the speaker of the House [was] talking today about the notion of 3 percent growth and how we can balance the budget,” Sanford said to offer an example of bogus rhetoric being used.
“For us to have a real debate, we have to base it on real numbers,” he said. “I’m a deficit hawk, as you well know, and if you’re wrong on these numbers, it means all of a sudden we’ve created a $2-plus-trillion hole for our kids and grandkids.”
Sanford would have kept going, but fortunately for Mulvaney, he ran out of time, and submitted the rest of his facts in writing to be included in the record.