Trump Ran Up National Debt Twice as Much as Biden: Report

Trump Ran Up National Debt Twice as Much as Biden: Report

By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Monday, June 24, 2024

Good evening! Thursday’s debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will dominate the news this week, though the Supreme Court is also set to hand down some major decisions as the current term nears an end — and the court on Monday said it would release opinions on Thursday and Friday in addition to Wednesday.

Here’s what else we’re watching.

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.


House Republicans Push Ahead on Partisan Annual Spending Bills

On Capitol Hill, the Senate is out this week and next, but the House returns tomorrow and Republican leaders expect to push ahead with their ambitious schedule for passing annual spending legislation, with floor votes planned for the three bills covering Defense, Homeland Security, and State and foreign operations. The Defense bill would provide $833 billion in discretionary funding, about $9 billion, or 1%, above the 2024 level. The Homeland Security bill would provide nearly $65 billion, including a nearly $3 billion boost to the non-defense portion. And the State-Foreign Operations bill would provide nearly $52 billion — a cut of $7.6 billion, or 11% compared with 2024, and 19% less than President Joe Biden requested.

A handful of other appropriations bills are slated for subcommittee markups later this week.

As a reminder, these GOP-written bills may pass the House but they’re likely going nowhere in the Senate, where Democrats oppose the GOP’s culture war policy provisions and their cuts to non-defense spending.

Chart of the Day: Disaster Challenge

The U.S. is experiencing a greater number of costly storms as global warming continues to reshape the planet. In 2023, the U.S. saw 28 storms causing at least $1 billion worth of damage, a record that will likely be broken in the not-too-distant future.

Bloomberg Opinion writer Mark Gongloff says global warming presents governments with a fiscal choice: Spend now to meet the challenge or spend later to clean up the mess.

“Depending on your politics, you might consider a government taking out loans to finance the clean-energy transition to be bad debt,” Gongloff writes. “But economists keep pointing out that a little bit of deficit spending to fight climate change today will save a whole lot of deficit spending tomorrow, to not only fight a rear-guard action against global heating but also to clean up the expensive mess it will make.”


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