After surveying the deficit, debt and ever-engorging federal entitlements from his corner office at the Eisenhower Executive Building for the better half of four months, Mick Mulvaney has arrived at a simple conclusion: Fiscal problems, like mold or cancer, are easier to manage the earlier you address them.
During a sit-down interview with the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, Mulvaney urged Congress to accept the White House's budget because it might be their last shot at a balanced budget without serious cuts to entitlements.
"The longer you wait to address a problem, the more you have to turn the dials to fix it. You could make a very small change now," Mulvaney suggested, pointing to modest entitlement changes inside Trump's FY 18 Budget, "and you could have a fairly large impact."
From the center and the left, there's been a rush to decry Mulvaney's budget as draconian, describing marquee cuts to disability insurance and food stamps as gutting the federal government. On the right, fiscal conservatives grumble that the budget doesn't tackle entitlements immediately.
(Whether or not the budget actually balances also remains a matter of debate. Mulvaney's former Freedom Caucus colleague, Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, criticized the budget for relying on a projection of 3 percent economic growth — "a goldilocks economy" was Sanford's phrase for this projection.)
But the Office of Management and Budget director is more than proud of his proposed spending plan. "We managed to balance the budget inside the 10-year window this year," he tells the Examiner. And Mulvaney goes out of his way to stress the fact that it was done, "without addressing any reforms to Medicare or Social Security retirement."
Mulvaney warns lawmakers that this could be as good as it gets. Citing both the growth of all mandatory programs and the reduction of the workforce, he said that if Congress didn't adopt Trump's spending cuts this year, he'd be "stunned" if the next budget could balance without tackling entitlements.
"The longer we wait to make the reforms, the harder it gets to actually balance," Mulvaney said. "That's why I don't think we would be able to balance the budget next year unless we actually make some of the changes this year that we've proposed."
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.