Smoke and flames are seen along Loma Prieta Avenue during the Loma Fire near Santa Cruz, Calif. on Sept. 27, 2016.
Photo by Stephen Lam/Reuters

Trump crafts new excuse for massive budget deficit: forest fires

Updated

A couple of months ago, Donald Trump first started sharing his thoughts on California wildfires, which the president has been eager to blame on Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and “bad environmental laws.” As regular readers knownone of Trump’s rhetoric made sense.

The Washington Post reported, for example, that the president seemed confused about every relevant detail. CNN added that even some White House officials “admitted to being slightly perplexed” at Trump’s obvious nonsense.

The issue is still on the president’s mind. In fact, he’s even blaming the enormous budget deficit on – what else? – forest fires.

Despite promising as a candidate to balance the budget if elected, Trump has made the deficit significantly larger: it was up to $666 billion in his first year in office, and we learned this week that it grew to $779 billion in his second.

In an interview yesterday with the Associated Press, the president was reminded that he “railed” against President Obama over deficits – despite the fact that Obama shrunk the deficit by $1 trillion in his first seven years in office – but he’s now making the budget shortfall vastly larger. Trump responded:

No. 1, I had to take care of our military. I had no choice but to do it, and I want to take care of our military. We had to do things that we had to do. And I’ve done them. Now we’re going to start bringing numbers down.

“We also have tremendous numbers with regard to hurricanes and fires and the tremendous forest fires all over. We had very big numbers, unexpectedly big numbers. California does a horrible job maintaining their forests. They’re going to have to start doing a better job or we’re not going to be paying them. They are doing a horrible job of maintaining what they have. And we had big numbers on tremendous numbers with the forest fires and obviously the hurricanes.”

Oh my.

First, Trump makes it sound as if military spending was so low when he arrived, the Pentagon was holding bake sales in the parking lot. It wasn’t. The Republican chose to increase defense spending, and he did so in a way that, by his own standards, was fiscally irresponsible.

Second, the president’s incessant criticisms of California’s forest management appears to be based on nothing but Trump’s odd assumptions.

Third, suggesting the cost of fighting forest fires played a role in the creation of a $779 billion deficit is plainly absurd. The deficit got bigger because Republicans handed a bunch of tax breaks to the wealthy and big corporations, and GOP policymakers didn’t even try to offset the costs.

Responding to natural disasters isn’t easy, and it can carry a meaningful price tag, but the financial implications are easily eclipsed by the cost of a regressive Republican tax package.

The president could take responsibility for his own fiscal decisions. Instead, Trump expects people to believe hollow excuses.