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Spending is a bipartisan addiction

It’s official: the federal budget deficit for the 2019 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, closed out at $984 billion. The U.S. Treasury Department announced the news on Friday. As bad as that word is, it’s apparent that the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties have little to no regard for fiscal responsibility.

“We’re not a rich country. We’re a debtor nation. We’ve got to get rid of – I talked about bubble. We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt,” said then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 in an interview with the Washington Post.

Asked how long it would take to get rid of the national debt, Trump said, “over a period of eight years.”

Fast-forward to this year, and President Trump has already presided over a federal government adding more to the national debt than George W. Bush did in two terms. The national debt surpassed $22 trillion earlier this year.

And while partisan defenders of the president like to deflect and point to the growth of the national debt under President Obama, such deflections leave out key context.

For one, unlike President Trump, President Obama took office amid the Great Recession. As President Trump likes to remind everyone, the United States economy has been performing quite well. And yet, that hasn’t translated to federal revenue keeping up with federal spending.

And second, while Obama inspired a strong fiscally conservative Tea Party movement translating to some modest budget controls, fiscal conservatism has been nowhere in sight among congressional Republicans.

As Reason notes, the annual federal deficit has grown 50 percent since Trump took office. As we have repeatedly observed, Trump, in partnership with congressional leaders, has repeatedly gone along with budget-busting budget deals, typically with the president using increases in military spending as all the cover he feels he needs.

Yet that didn’t stop Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin from putting a spin on the news of a $984 billion deficit. “President Trump’s economic agenda is working: the nation is experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years, there are more jobs to fill than there are job seekers, and Americans are experiencing sustained year-over-year wage increases,” he said.

That’s all great. But that doesn’t change the fact that the federal government, presided over by President Trump, has continued its bipartisan spending binge.

It’s not really a mystery why both parties choose profligate spending over fiscal responsibility.

It’s a lot easier to keep spending at the expense of future generations of Americans than it is to spend responsibly. It’s a lot easier to say nothing about fast-rising entitlement program costs than it is to reform them. And it’s a lot easier to pledge to end endless wars than it is to cut back on excessive military spending.

Trump has never paid more than lip service to fiscal responsibility, though even that’s been rare. And the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls has mostly been busy dreaming up new taxes to fund new and highly expensive federal programs.

As polarized as the current political times are said to be, it’s clear both parties see eye-to-eye on something: they’ll gladly put the federal government into greater debt so long as they never have to answer for it.

This editorial first appeared in the Orange County Register.