On October 25, 2017, Georgetown’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and consulting firm Ernst & Young brought Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney back to his alma mater for a conversation about Trump’s tax reform plan. As one of the members of the “Troika” —comprised of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Head of the Council of Economic Advisors, and the Secretary of the Treasury — Mulvaney has played a key role in developing the economic agenda of the Trump Administration.
A Career in Business and Politics
Mulvaney, a graduate of the School of Foreign Service Class of 1989, admitted, “I was one of the few people in the School of Foreign Service who didn’t want to go into politics.” Instead, after graduation, he explored other options. “I worked at a law firm, I started my own law firm, I started a home-building business, I have a real estate business, I was in the restaurant business.” Ultimately, however, politics drew him in. In 2010, he ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to represent South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District and won. He was reelected in 2012 and again in 2014. He served in the House until being nominated to serve as Director of OMB by President Trump on February 16, 2017.
Cathy Koch, moderator and EY Americas Tax Policy Leader, started off the conversation by posing a question about the nature of the OMB. Mulvaney joked, “Ordinarily, we don’t tell people what we do,” drawing laughs from the audience in the Healey Family Student Center Social Room, before addressing some of OMB’s key responsibilities. “Every dollar that flows from the Treasury out to the various agencies comes through our office. We write the President’s budget, we sell the President’s budget on the Hill, we take a lot of incoming flak for the President’s budget with the media.”
On Getting Involved in Politics and Tax Reform
On his advice for students interested in a career in politics and public service, Mulvaney told them to “go get a real job first.” He elaborated, explaining that “The more things things you can get exposed to in the ‘real world’ before you come and do this, I think, has been a tremendous value.”
I do worry about creating a class of people who are politicians and a class of people who are businessmen and women. You have to have cross-pollination between that, otherwise you don’t understand the issues as well as you possibly can.
Mulvaney also made the case to Georgetown students about his proposal for tax reform, giving a short pitch about the pillars of the Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code. “Pay less and pay it simpler is one pillar,” he explained, “and the other pillar is this lower corporate tax.” He also elaborated on the difference between static and dynamic models, explaining that static models “lower the tax from 30 to 20 and all we do is raise less income,” while dynamic models “lower the rate, which thus triggers corporate investment, which thus triggers productivity, which thus raises GDP.” The Trump Administration plan relies on dynamic model assumptions.The event concluded with questions from the audience. Mulvaney answered queries from students about the assumptions of dynamic models, the controversy over cuts to 401K retirement plans, and the deficit-increasing nature of the tax plan. One student asked, “As Republicans, how is the current administration justifying the deficit-increasing nature of its tax plan and is it consistent with your previous statement on the nature of deficit neutrality?”
“I don’t care if you’re Republican, I don’t care if you’re Democrat,” Mulvaney asserted. “We’ve trained America to expect more government than they’re willing to pay for.”