Donald Trump’s far-right budget director, Mick Mulvaney, sat down with the New York Times the other day and expressed confidence that he’s doing a great job.
Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, may be one of the most maligned men in Washington because he is the bearer of budget cuts. He has been accused of everything from ethnic cleansing to wanting to kill a million people. He gets “fan mail” with fake business cards tucked in that give his job title as a “starver of hungry children and elderly.”
To Mr. Mulvaney, this is evidence of a job well done.
“In our business that’s usually seen as a sign that the other side doesn’t know what to say substantively,” Mr. Mulvaney said during an interview Friday in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Aside from the president himself, if there’s one person in the Trump administration who should avoid boasts about “substantive” debates, it’s the Republican leading the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
It was just last week, for example, that Mulvaney told the Washington Examiner, in reference to his budget plan and the administration’s tax-reform ambitions, ”I wouldn’t take what’s in the budget as indicative of what our proposals are.”
That, of course, didn’t make any sense. A budget is, practically by definition, a document intended to reflect proposals.
But the comment offered a mere peek into a deeply radical perspective that makes Mulvaney one of the most extreme and indefensible members of Team Trump.
Even before taking the job, Mulvaney was a relatively obscure right-wing congressman who helped create the far-right House Freedom Caucus. On Capitol Hill, he developed a reputation for being on the fringe, celebrating the the 2013 government shutdown as “good policy,” and championed the Republicans’ 2011 debt-ceiling hostage crisis, arguing publicly that if the United States went into default, he didn’t think it would matter.
As recently as last summer, Mulvaney accepted an invitation to speak to the John Birch Society.
Donald Trump saw this c.v. and decided it was time to give this man a promotion, putting Mulvaney in charge of the new administration’s budgeting, despite Mulvaney’s absence of credible policy experience in budget policy.
And what a budget director he’s become. He unveiled a budget plan with a jaw-dropping $2-trillion mistake – and then insisted his colossal screw-up was intentional. Mulvaney has attacked the Congressional Budget Office in ways that even Republicans weren’t comfortable with. He’s endorsed playing games with the debt ceiling.
He’s argued that the difference between the U-3 and U-6 unemployment metrics can be eliminated, which is absurd. Mulvaneky has written that when it comes to social-insurance programs and public benefits, “Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft.” (He then vowed to “reverse this larceny.”) Asked about the White House’s proposed budget cuts to Social Security, after Trump promised not to cut Social Security, Mulvaney has made the case that the president’s pre-election promise didn’t really count.
In the health care fight, Mulvaney has been caught brazenly lying – twice – about basic details. Asked about GOP efforts to strip millions of Americans of maternity benefits, his message to women has been that they should “figure out a way to change the state that [they] live in.”
And it’s hard to forget what this guy said about Meals on Wheels.
New York’s Jon Chait wrote last week that Mulvaney’s approach to budget involves relying on numbers “made up by people who don’t even pretend they’re real.” The New Republic’s Alex Shephard added, in reference to Mulvaney’s pushback against the CBO on health care, that Trump’s budget director relies on arguments that are “astonishingly brazen, cynical, and stupid.”
On a team filled with radicals and incompetents, Mulvaney stands out as among the most ridiculous. That he looks at his brief tenure as a success is more than a little alarming.