Donald Trump’s Out of Control Spending? One of the most illogical quirks of US political discourse is the Republican-led idea that conservative administrations trend toward a balanced budget, whereas Democrats trend toward a greater national debt.
The idea has gained traction amongst the general public because the idea makes sense on its face: conservatives preach smaller government and less government spending; liberals preach bigger government and more government spending.
But the conservative-are-better-for-the-budget idea doesn’t hold up against modern history.
The last president to balance the budget was William J. Clinton, a Democrat.
Meanwhile, Donald J. Trump, the most recent Republican president, a businessman who campaigned against the overspending of the Obama administration, left the US deficit larger than at any point in US history.
“One of President Donald Trump’s lesser known but profoundly damaging legacies will be the explosive rise in the national debt that occurred on his watch,” ProPublica reported. “The financial burden that he’s inflicted on our government will wreak havoc for decades, saddling our kids and grandkids with debt.”
Remarkable, given that a core promise of Donald Trump’s campaign was to pay off the national deficit within eight years of taking office.
Donald Trump and the national debt
“The U.S. national debt has continued to climb over the years with each president, as different national and global events have affected debt,” Investopedia reported.
So the mounting national debt is not singularly a Trump problem; his administration is consistent with a trend – but don’t let conservatives tell you national debt is a liberal thing.
During the four short years Trump was in office, the national debt rose almost $7.8 trillion.
To put that number in perspective, that’s almost double the cumulative debt that Americans owe on student loans, car loans, credit cards, and other miscellaneous debts (excluding mortgages), according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Split evenly amongst the population, Trump’s debt accrual breaks down to $23,500 per person, for every single American citizen.
“The growth in the annual deficit under Trump ranks as the third-biggest increase, relative to the size of any U.S. presidential administration, according to a calculation by a leading Washington budget maven, Eugene Steuerle, co-founder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center,” ProPublica reported.
Don’t blame the pandemic
The national debt spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. And although “economists agree that we needed massive deficit spending during the COVID-19 crisis to ward off an economic cataclysm,” Trump had already made a series of decisions that contributed to the US deficit.
“The combination of Trump’s 2017 tax cut and the lack of any serious spending restraint helped both the deficit and the debt soar. So when the once-in-a-lifetime viral disaster slammed our country and we threw more than $3 trillion into COVID-19-related stimulus, there was no longer any margin for error,” ProPublica reported.
Now, the debt to GDP ration is the highest it’s been since World War II.
But now, we have “the massive financial overhang” of Medicare and Social Security, which didn’t exist yet in the 1940s – so our contemporary position is worse off.
Liberal criticisms of the Trump administration often hinge upon trivialities, like, Trump was mean. Or Trump was rude.
Or Trump was belligerent.
But as Trump trends towards his third consecutive GOP nomination, liberals may want to find more substantive critiques of Trump, lest he win a second term. Trump’s record on the national deficit may be a good place to start.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
NOTE: This has been updated to make a change in the coding of the piece. We apologize for any issues.