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Hatchet Man: Mick Mulvaney for OMB

January 31, 2017


The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is one of those boring but essential federal bureaucracies that most people never think about.  But maybe you should, because Trump has nominated one of the most radical Tea Party fiscal conservatives in Congress to head that key office.

Mick Mulvaney is a Republican congressman from South Carolina who was swept in by the 2010 Tea Party tsunami.  He is a founder of the far right House Freedom Caucus that made life so miserable for Speaker John Boehner that he quit in 2015. He is a ferocious fiscal hawk who advocates a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. He voted to shut down the government and risk financial chaos if he didn’t get his way on spending cuts. His obsessive focus has been on cutting “entitlements” like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The OMB director is one of the three senior economic advisors to the president and has great influence on policy matters. He will have particular influence on Medicare, to which Mulvaney has advocated drastic changes that would raise the eligibility age, cut benefits, and change it to a voucher system  He has also called for changing Medicaid to block grants to the states, which in practical terms will mean limiting eligibility and cutting benefits to poor and disabled people in states (usually Republican-run) that are stingy with social welfare programs and which (not coincidentally) tend to have the highest proportion of people without health insurance.  He will certainly have a strong ally in Tom Price, if the latter is confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Mulvaney’s opposition to raising the national debt ceiling, if implemented, would threaten the creditworthiness of the US government, as has nearly happened a few times in recent years.  And his prescription for requiring a balanced budget would eliminate the principal weapon that the government has to combat a recession, i.e., a fiscal stimulus financed by deficit spending, which has been orthodox economic theory and practice since the Great Depression.

Mulvaney’s passion for spending cuts has not exempted the military, which may turn out to be the greatest obstacle to his confirmation.  Senate defense hawks have condemned him for being insufficiently pro-military and for advocating pulling out of Afghanistan.  John McCain, in particular, called him “crazy” and accused him of “pitting the debt against the military.”

The other bump in the road happened when it emerged that Mulvaney had failed to pay some $15,000 in payroll and unemployment taxes for a household employee between 2001 and 2004.  In the past, “nannygate” scandals like that have been enough to sink cabinet and other nominations, but at a time when Trump publicly flouts conflict of interest laws and regulations who’s going to care much about that now?

But if you or anyone in your family has benefited from Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security or if you think you might like to have access to those programs in the future, you might consider calling your Senator before Mulvaney has a chance to take his axe to them.

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