Remember when President Trump promised to lower the national debt during the campaign? Remember when he said he could do it “fairly quickly?” Those were good times. Unfortunately, the reality has not matched up with the campaign rhetoric. Entering into Trump’s fourth year, the national debt has ballooned to over $23 trillion and the budget deficits are bigger than ever.
As it turns out, you can’t pay down the national debt, quickly or otherwise, when you keep spending billions of dollars every month.
The federal budget deficit for November came in at $208.8 billion, according to the latest Monthly Treasury Statement. That was 2 percent higher than the November 2018 deficit. Through the first two months of fiscal 2020, the deficit is already 12 percent higher than it was over the same period in fiscal 2019.
The FY2019 budget deficit came in just a hair under $1 trillion at $984 billion. That amounted to 4.7 percent of GDP, the highest percentage since 2012. It was the fourth consecutive year in which the deficit increased as a percentage of GDP. The debt-to-GDP ratio is estimated to have increased a hefty 26 percent over last year.
The Trump administration is on track for a deficit of over $1 trillion in this fiscal year. The federal government has only run deficits over $1 trillion four times, all during the Great Recession. We’re approaching that number today, despite what Trump keeps calling “the greatest economy in the history of America.”
Spending is the problem. Treasury receipts were up 9 percent last month, but Uncle Sam blew through $434 billion. That was 6 percent above the spending in November 2018. In just two months, the Trump administration spent $814 billion.
There is no end in sight to the spending. Congress and the Trump administration are currently putting the finishing touches on a $1.4 trillion spending deal that will almost certainly expand deficits further. According to an Associated Press report, the deal “fills in the details of a bipartisan framework from July that delivered about $100 billion in agency spending increases over the coming two years instead of automatic spending cuts that would have sharply slashed both the Pentagon and domestic agencies.”
The bipartisan framework that Trump signed over the summer suspended the borrowing limit for two years and increases discretionary spending from $1.32 trillion in FY2019 to $1.37 trillion in fiscal 2020. The deal then boosts spending again to $1.375 trillion the year after that. The spending plan – that Trump signed – increases both domestic and military outlays. And it appears the actual 2020 spending blueprint will come in even higher than that summer agreement outlined.
The national debt increased by $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2019, according to Treasury Department data and has since pushed above $23 trillion.
To put that into perspective, just last February, the national debt topped $22 trillion. When President Trump took office in January 2017, the debt was at $19.95 trillion. That represented a $2.06 trillion increase in the debt in just over two years. The borrowing pace continues to accelerate. The Treasury borrowed $800 billion in just two months between Aug. 1 and Oct. 6. (If you’re wondering how the debt can grow by a larger number than the annual deficit, economist Mark Brandly explains here.)
It’s important to note that Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate when Congress passed the spending bills that authorized the last two years of massive deficit spending. If ever there was a time to cut spending, it was when the supposedly fiscally conservative GOP controlled the entire government.
Congress bears a great deal of responsibility for Uncle Sam’s fiscal malfeasance, but so does the president. His supporters need to quit making excuses, hold his feet to the fire and insist that he deal with the debt.
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