President Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to take a hatchet to the federal budget, attacking a deficit that is spiraling out of control.
“We’re going to do a lot of cutting of the budget,” the president told Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney.
Politicians frequently talk about cutting spending but rarely follow through. Trump himself took cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare off the table when he launched his presidential campaign in 2015.
And one of the signature crowd chants of his 2016 campaign was “Drain the Swamp,” which is still heard in 2018 during the president’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) rallies. Fulfilling that campaign promises requires reversing spending habits that have been ingrained in the federal government since the New Deal.
And in March, he reluctantly signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill, which obliterated spending caps that had slowed the growth of domestic programs.
But Trump told Varney that it will be easy to cut the budget.
“It’s not as tough as you think and, frankly, there’s a lot of fat in there, but we had to get the military done last time,” he said. “You know, President [Barack] Obama let it go, and I could say beyond President Obama, the military was in terrible shape. Now we’ve got $700 billion approved and we got $716 billion, two years, and our military is rebuilding like it’s never been, really never happened, before.”
“Trillion-dollar annual deficits are expected to return as soon as next year and continue indefinitely, driving historically high and dangerous levels of debt.”
Trump also touted a raise for military personnel in the last budget.
To get the military spending hike, Trump said, “We had to give up things to the Democrats that I hated to give up, that you wouldn’t have liked, but I had to.”
Trump’s comments come on the heels of a Treasury Department report this week showing that the deficit for the fiscal year that ended September 30 ballooned to $779 billion, the largest since 2012.
Michael Peterson, chairman and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, pointed to projections that the deficit soon could exceed $1 trillion.
“As troubling as this year’s deficit is, it’s just the beginning of large and growing deficits as far as the eye can see,” he said in a statement. “Trillion-dollar annual deficits are expected to return as soon as next year and continue indefinitely, driving historically high and dangerous levels of debt.”
Trump told reporters in the White House before a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that he would ask each secretary to cut 5 percent from department budgets in the coming fiscal year.
The president last month signed an $854 billion spending measure to keep the federal government in business through December 7 while congressional negotiators work on a spending plan to fund the government for the entire fiscal year.
Trump did not explain how it would be easy to get Senate Democrats to go along with deep spending cuts. That is necessary, because Senate rules require 60 votes to pass spending bills, and Republicans have only 51.
Trump told Varney in the Fox interview that he plans to continue cutting regulations.
“You know, it used to take 21 years to get a highway built — you know, bad case — but it would take 21 years,” he said. “We’re trying to bring that down to two, and maybe even one. And by the way, if it’s not right, we’re not going to approve it, but we’re not going to take 21 years to find out whether or not we can do it.”