Harris, Democrats announce plans to balance the budget 

OK. So, I’m obviously joking. But now that I have your attention, it looks like we are set to go through the entire 2024 election cycle without a serious discussion on spending, deficits or the debt.   

As depressing as that might be, it is probably what voters want. 

There was an opportunity to discuss the issue a few weeks back. But the debate that ended Joe Biden’s political career will go down in history as just that. It certainly won’t be remembered for any meaningful inquiry into the current fiscal state of the nation.   

When the topic of the debt did come up , neither candidate offered meaningful answers: Donald Trump said that in his first term we were “ready to start paying down debt.” Biden suggested that by simply raising taxes on the country’s thousand billionaires we could “wipe out this debt.”  Trump’s answer probably has enough ambiguity to avoid a complete refutation. Biden’s was nowhere close to being accurate: if you took $1 billion from one thousand people, you’d raise $1 trillion. That’s less than 3 percent of the current debt.  

Social Security was also discussed . Sort of. The program is facing an across-the-board automatic benefit cut of roughly 25 percent by 2035 . And while it hasn’t yet contributed one penny to the national debt (please allow that to sink in) it is certainly a pressing fiscal matter. Biden’s nearly indecipherable response on the issue was that “by increasing from one percent beyond…that one enough will keep it solvent.” When he was able to complete a full sentence, it was only to regurgitate the debunked claim that Trump “wants to get rid of Social Security.”   

Trump’s response was to pivot to illegal immigration.  

The word “spending,” by the way only came up three times in the debate, each time on the topic of aid to Ukraine.  

It’s fair to say that the Republican convention last week didn’t move the needle much on the issue, either. The party platform that was released at the outset of the gathering mentioned spending exactly once: “Republicans will immediately stabilize the Economy by slashing wasteful Government spending and promoting Economic Growth.” 

That’s encouraging, of course. And consistent with Republican orthodoxy. But while the number of words doesn’t necessarily equate to the priority of the topic, it wasn’t lost on budget hawks that the platform spent more time talking about preserving our national parks and “promoting beauty” in public buildings than it did on spending.  

But give Republicans credit. At least their platform mentions spending and deficits. And Trump did mention those topics in his keynote speech. It’s hard to imagine the Democrats doing anything more than using the topic to justify “making the rich pay their fair share.” If they raise it at all. 

There’s a reason for both parties dodging the issue, of course. And it is the same reason we are over $35 trillion in debt: Voters just don’t care.   

A few years back, when Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, I pressed a high-ranking Republican on the issue, arguing that if we didn’t fix things now, no one would. “We could fix it,” he told me. “We could take the drastic action necessary to balance the budget, we could shore up Social Security, and we might even be able to do something about Medicaid. But everyone would hate us, we’d lose the next election. Or the next three or four. And the Democrats would come in and immediately undo everything we did. We’d still have debt, we’d still have monster deficits, and entitlements would still be broken. Everything would be exactly the same, except that taxes would be higher, the economy would tank and we’d be wildly unpopular. Nobody votes for Scrooge.” 

While perhaps depressing, the answer was refreshingly candid in a Washington filled with dodging the issue. 

And he wasn’t wrong. As a leading Republican senator once told President Trump, in reference to the dramatic spending reforms of our 2024 proposed federal budget – one of the last to propose actually balancing the budget:  “No one in this town has ever lost his job for spending too much. People have lost for spending too little.” 

Candidates for office talk about what people want them to talk about. They focus on the issues that are important to the people they represent. And right now, voters don’t care about spending.   

That Republican was right when he opined that any spending restraints implemented by Republicans would likely immediately be undone by the next Democrat government. But the situation is even worse than that.  Even the small gains that were leveraged out of Republican leadership and the Obama White House by the Tea party back in 2011 and 2013 fell by the wayside in the following years. And some of the undoing was at the hands of other Republicans. 

The rules – both of the House and the Senate, and probably more importantly, the ballot box – favor more spending and more deficits. The only real solution, then, is to change the rules. A zero-based budget approach might help. A balanced budget amendment – which used to be wildly popular in GOP circles – would accomplish even more.   

But apparently neither party will be talking about those things this election cycle.  

Mick Mulvaney,  a former congressman from South Carolina, is a contributor to NewsNation. He served as director of the Office of Management and Budget, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and White House chief of staff under President Donald Trump. 

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K Street struggles to decode Trump VP pick Vance

In just two short years, Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) went from winning a seat in the Senate in 2022 to securing his spot as former President Trump’s vice presidential pick last week. 

His meteoric rise leaves few clues for lobbyists looking to decode the junior senator’s policy positions and little footing to make inroads with a potential second Trump White House. 

A former senior White House official told The Hill that the decision to tap Vance “is likely a shocking pick to the D.C. establishment who were rooting for a more conventional VP pick.” 

Given Vance’s relatively short tenure in Congress, his former staffers haven’t made their way in droves down the well-trodden path from Capitol Hill to K Street, the term referring to the Washington influence industry that has spread far beyond the street for which it is named. 

Vance has also raised eyebrows with some of his initial moves on Capitol Hill, including co-sponsoring legislation with progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to claw back compensation from executives whose banks fail and introducing in May a bill that would bar public health officials from working with drug, biologic and medical device companies after leaving office for eight years, among other provisions. 

He has also called the merger-busting Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan “one of the few people in the Biden administration that I think is doing a pretty good job” and signed on to co-sponsor the Credit Card Competition Act, a bipartisan bill that financial institutions have been spending millions to fight. 

“Those are not business-as-usual-type arrangements,” Loren Monroe, a principal at the lobbying giant BGR Group, told The Hill.  

“We’re telling our clients that the traditional alliances and divisions of issues by party are being scrambled and political and policy engagement has to be more nimble and retrofitted to accommodate these changing political priorities,” Monroe added. 

While Trump’s decision to pick Vance also “shocked” many CEOs, according to Semafor , the decision did not come as a surprise to some lobbyists.  

“The conventional wisdom of the Bush Era has been irrelevant for a long, long time. A lot of Republican D.C.-based lobbyists and consultants are less comfortable with the party’s effort to appeal to working-class voters, and I think in part that’s why Nikki Haley won the D.C. primary against Trump,” Sam Geduldig, co-CEO of CGCN Group and a former staffer for the House Financial Services Committee and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), told The Hill. 

David French, chief lobbyist at the National Retail Federation (NRF), praised Vance as a “disruptor” willing to take a fresh look at lingering issues like the Credit Card Competition Act, a bill that aims to break up the “Visa-Mastercard duopoly” by requiring large financial issuers to offer more than two network options for processing credit card transactions.  

The NRF plans to recognize Vance this week at its annual retail summit as one of 16 “Champions of Main Street” who demonstrate “consistent support of the retail industry’s public policy priorities,” alongside the bill’s primary sponsors Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). 

A spokesperson for the Electronic Payments Coalition, a coalition of banks including Visa and Mastercard opposing the bill, did not return a request to discuss Vance’s decision to sign on as a co-sponsor. 

Doug Kantor, general counsel at the National Association of Convenience Stores who is also highly engaged on the Credit Card Competition Act, told The Hill that the senator and his staff “have always been fantastic to work with.” 

“It is not helpful for people to go in [to Vance’s office] and sling a bunch of BS. They need to know what they’re talking about,” Kantor said. 

Vance grew up in a Rust Belt town in Ohio and wrote about the poverty, isolation and addiction he witnessed in his communities in his memoir-turned-movie “Hillbilly Elegy.” But he also spent a brief stint as a venture capitalist and has maintained close ties in Silicon Valley.

He joined Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm Mithril Capital in 2015 after graduating from Yale Law School. 

Vance later joined the D.C.-based investment firm Revolution before founding his own Ohio-based venture capital firm, Narya Capital, with backing from Thiel, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. 

Thiel also poured $15 million into a super PAC supporting the Vance campaign during the 2022 election cycle.

But not everyone has been on board for Vance. Former Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) backed former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken to succeed him during the 2022 election cycle, while Trump backed Vance, who went on to beat out a crowded field of contenders. 

Geduldig was one of Vance’s early donors, giving his campaign $2,900 in June 2022 a few weeks after he won his Ohio primary because, he told The Hill, he admires Vance’s “commitment to working-class issues.” His firm’s CGCN PAC also gave $2,900 to Ohioans for JD in May 2022 and $2,400 to the Vance Victory a few months later in August, according to FEC records , and Geduldig wrote another check to the Vance campaign last month.

“We view our job as to get to know and have relationships with elected officials, period,” Geduldig said, adding, “we think we are well positioned with the people that are winning Republican primaries and elections.”

Spokespersons for Vance did not respond to The Hill’s question about Vance’s approach to lobbyists who may have bet against him in the past. But at the top of the ticket, Trump warned in January that donors to Nikki Haley will be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.”  

“Here in town it will absolutely suck for people who have written [Vance] off for the past 3 years going back to his [Ohio] campaign,” the former White House official warned. 

Julia Shapero contributed.

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How Does UK View America’s Tumultuous Political Season? 

Within less than two weeks, the world has watched as former President Donald Trump was almost assassinated, President Joe Biden announced he was ending his bid for reelection, and Vice President Kamala Harris has emerged as the leading choice for the Democratic Party nomination for president.

From within the U.S., it feels like a tumultuous time in American politics . But how is the world—and specifically, the United Kingdom—viewing “the land of the free and home of the brave” right now? 

The U.K. is “very concerned” by recent events in America, says Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent and a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, a London think tank.

“The attempted assassination of Donald Trump was seen as a symbol of a country that is very divided and polarized,” according to Goodwin. “There’s an awareness that the rhetoric has become extreme, not just around the former president, but also on the Left of American politics.” 

Goodwin joins “The Daily Signal Podcast ” to discuss Europeans’ views of America’s fraught election cycle, and to discuss the results of the U.K’s own recent elections that resulted in the worst-ever election defeat for Britain’s Conservative Party. 

Listen to the podcast below:

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