Trump Added About Twice as Much to National Debt as Biden: Report
The Debt

Trump Added About Twice as Much to National Debt as Biden: Report


Whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump wins the White House in November, the next presidential term is likely to see the national debt reach a record size relative to the U.S. economy. A new analysis by the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a group that advocates for deficit and debt reduction, finds that policies adopted under both presidents have contributed trillions to the debt, though Trump approved nearly double the new borrowing as Biden has.

Trump, according to the analysis, approved $8.4 trillion of new borrowing over 10 years during his four years in office. Biden, over three years and five months, has approved $4.3 trillion in new borrowing. If you exclude Covid-response bills, Trump’s total is $4.8 trillion and Biden’s is $2.2 trillion.

Trump’s ledger includes $5.9 trillion of spending increases ($2.8 trillion excluding Covid) and $2.5 trillion in tax cuts ($2 trillion without Covid). Biden has signed off on $4.3 trillion in additional spending ($2.3 trillion excluding Covid) and has kept tax revenues about flat (or a $60 billion increase without Covid measures).

Why it matters: As the national debt has grown, interest costs have surged and are poised to climb higher. Congress and the next president will be faced with decisions about the expiring 2017 tax cuts. The CBO has estimated that extending the cuts, as Trump and some Republicans want to do, would add $4.6 trillion to deficits over the next decade. Lawmakers will also have to raise the debt limit even as demographic trends continue to add to the cost of programs including Social Security and Medicare.

“The next presidential term will present significant fiscal challenges,” the CRFB analysis says. “While past performance is not necessarily indicative of future actions, it is helpful to examine the fiscal performance from each President’s time in office for clues as to how they plan to confront these challenges or how high of a priority fiscal responsibility will be on their agendas.”

Biden proposes to reverse the Trump tax cuts on the rich and corporations as part of a plan the White House says would reduce the projected debt by $3 trillion. Trump has promised additional tax cuts and reportedly would seek to have the country grow its way out of debt, raising enough new revenue to stabilize deficits — though experts say the needed growth rates would be unrealistic. “There is no credible argument that we will be able to grow our way out of the problems that we are facing,” CRFB President Maya MacGuineas told The Washington Post.

Jason Fichtner, chief economist at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a centrist think tank, suggested to the Post that neither president has distinguished himself on the debt. “Can I give them both C-minuses on debt policy?” he said.