Trump got rolled. That’s the blunt assessment from Cato Institute senior fellow, Dan Mitchell. Trump and the GOP gave Democrats a win when they were so scared of getting blamed for a government shutdown that they caved on nearly every priority in the budget for the remainder of fiscal 2017. It’s hard to argue with that assessment.
Mitchell suggests that Trump and the GOP, in order to avoid further embarrassment, take a look at the stunning victory Maine Governor Paul LePage was able to win recently. LePage was faced with a budget bill that raised the state’s lodging tax. But the governor put his foot down and threatened to veto any bill with a tax increase in it. Eventually, after a three day shutdown of non-emergency government employees, LePage was given a bill that didn’t raise taxes on Mainers. Mitchell writes:
Let’s return to the lessons that Trump should learn from Governor LePage about how to win a shutdown fight.
One of the lessons is to stake out the high ground. Have the fight over something important. LePage wanted to kill the lodging tax and the referendum surtax. Since those taxes were so damaging, it was very easy for the Governor to justify his position.
Another lesson is to go on offense. Republicans in Maine explained that higher taxes would make the state less competitive. Here’s a chart they disseminated comparing the tax burden in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
And here’s another very powerful chart that was circulated to policy makers, showing the migration of taxpayers from high-tax states to zero-income-tax states.
Trump should do something similar. The fight later this year in DC (assuming the President is willing to fight) will be about spending levels. And leftists will be complaining about “savage” and “draconian” cuts.
So the Trump Administration should respond with charts showing that the other side is being hysterical and inaccurate since he’s merely trying to slow down the growth of government.
But the most important lesson of all is that Trump holds a veto pen. And that means he (just like Gov. LePage in Maine) controls the situation. He can veto bad budget legislation. And when the interest groups start to squeal that the spending faucet is no longer dispensing goodies because of a shutdown, he should understand that those interest groups feeling the pinch generally will be on the left. And when they complain, it is the big spenders in Congress who will feel the most pressure to capitulate in order to reopen the faucet. Moreover, the longer the government is shut down, the greater the pinch on the pro-spending lobbies.
In other words, Trump has the leverage, if he is willing to use it.
Read more here at Mitchell’s International Liberty blog.