According to the New York Times, Rep. Mick Mulvaney is a dangerous man. The editorial board warns this morning that Trump’s pick for budget chief “can wreak havoc.” They’re absolutely right.

The squat and somewhat irritable congressman from South Carolina inspires legitimate fear because of his record as a spending hawk. Impatient with messaging, he feeds off of slashed budgets and burnt regulations.

Now the Gray Lady clutches her pearls because of Mulvaney’s “pronounced hostility to both federal spending and federal regulation.” Or put another way, he actually believes all that stuff about lower taxes, less spending and limited government.

House Speaker Paul Ryan knows this better than most. Though Ryan counts him as a personal friend and ideological ally, Mulvaney hasn’t hesitated to torch the speaker’s budget. Along with the House Freedom Caucus, which he helped found, Mulvaney balked at a proposal that would have increased outlays by $30 billion.

The fight over the miniscule amount made a $1.07 trillion budget impossible and exploded the appropriations process. An election year embarrassment, a Republican Congress couldn’t even agree on a budget.

Episodes like that often make Mulvaney a pariah. Principled to a fault, he regularly howls at the thought of compromise especially if it increases spending. With $19 trillion in debt, he argues that there’s no need for the government to go deeper into debt — now the backlash on the front page of the New York Times.

None can doubt Mulvaney’s dedication to small government. One time, he literally held up relief for victims battered by hurricane Sandy, demanding that Congress cut spending across the board to finance $50.7 billion in disaster aid. Eventually Mulvaney’s efforts failed but not before 162 members joined his cause.

As the fiscal conscience of the future administration, Mulvaney could bring that mentality with him into the administration. Charged primarily with crafting the federal budget, he’d be well positioned to force Republicans to deliver on their value proposition of fiscal conservatism. It’d be a nightmare for Democrats, and as the Times points out, an ideological conflict with the president-elect.

Trump ran on a platform of economic populism, not fiscal responsibility. Clutching a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan as he heads for the Oval Office, Trump now looks more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan. Indeed, his plans to prime America’s economic pump are unmistakably inconsistent with Mulvaney’s beliefs.

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This sets up an ethical hurdle for Mulvaney on day one of the new job. He can either acquiesce to gratuitous spending bills and debt ceiling increases, giving them a conservative veneer and making small cuts at the margins. That’s not unprecedented. Both Ron Johnson and Mitch Daniels oversaw massive debt increases as OMB directors before springing for the U.S. Senate and Indiana governor’s mansion. Mulvaney could do the same.

Or Mulvaney could bring his obstructionist talents into the OMB office. His corner of the Eisenhower Office Building would be a suitable libertarian lair, a place where bloated budget proposals could go to die. It’d be risky, but Mulvaney could try purging the incoming administration of its Keynesian tendencies.

Either way, Mulvaney has a choice. He can become a rubber stamp for gratuitous spending or a hard nose for fiscal conservatism. Clearly the New York Times believes he will choose the latter. For them, that’s terrifying.

Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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