The budget proposal the White House will deliver to Congress on Tuesday might carry Donald Trump’s name, but it reflects Mick Mulvaney’s fiscal vision.
The president has been uncharacteristically quiet on the most expansive policy statement of his young administration, ceding responsibility for both its substance and message to his staunchly conservative budget director.
And Mulvaney has certainly run with the assignment. The former congressional spending hawk has affixed the presidential seal to a wish list of ideological budget cuts—to the State Department, the EPA, and the social safety net, among many others—that only a few years ago had been marginalized even in the Republican-led House. “This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes,” Mulvaney told reporters on Monday by way of explaining the budget’s core philosophy, which he described more succinctly as “Taxpayer First.” “Too often in Washington we only look at the recipient side: How does the budget affect either those who receive or don’t receive benefits.”
That perspective is familiar to members of the House Freedom Caucus, the hardline group that Mulvaney co-founded as a congressman from South Carolina. But it is less familiar as an argument coming from Trump, who memorably differentiated himself from his Republican presidential rivals by vowing to protect the entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—that they had proposed to cut over time. His was a big-government conservatism, and many voters who had scorned the fiscal austerity of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in 2012 had backed Trump last fall.