Trump’s most enduring legacy could be the historic rise in the national debt

From The Washington Post:

The national debt has risen by almost $7.8 trillion during Trump’s time in office. That’s nearly twice as much as what Americans owe on student loans, car loans, credit cards and every other type of debt other than mortgages, combined, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It amounts to about $23,500 in new federal debt for every person in the country.

Some highlights (lowlights?) from the article include:

  • Trump said he could pay down the national debt, then about $19 trillion, “over a period of eight years” by renegotiating trade deals and spurring economic growth.
  • Trump’s tax cuts, especially the sharp reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, took a big bite out of federal revenue. The CBO estimated in 2018 that the tax cut would increase deficits by about $1.9 trillion over 11 years.
  • The tariffs did bring in additional revenue. In fiscal 2019, they netted about $71 billion, up about $36 billion from President Barack Obama’s last year in office. But although $36 billion is a lot of money, it’s less than 1/750th of the national debt.
  • That $36 billion could have covered a bit more than three weeks of interest on the national debt — that is, had Trump not unilaterally decided to send a chunk of the tariff revenue to farmers affected by his trade wars.
  • Trump’s budget proposal for 2020 called it a “grave threat to our economic and societal prosperity” and asserted the United States was experiencing a “national debt crisis.” However, that same budget proposal included substantial growth in the national debt.
  • As of Dec. 31, 2020, the national debt had jumped to $27.75 trillion, up 39 percent from $19.95 trillion when Trump was sworn in.

This is all before the coronavirus required a massive federal response. Trump’s words are promising to reduce the debt; his actions are doing the precise opposite.

Trump had the third-biggest primary deficit growth, 5.2 percent of GDP, behind only George W. Bush (11.7 percent) and Abraham Lincoln (9.4 percent). Bush, of course, not only passed a big tax cut, as Trump has, but also launched two wars, which greatly inflated the defense budget. Lincoln had to pay for the Civil War. By contrast, Trump’s wars have been almost entirely of the political variety.

Emphasis mine.

There may be no charitable explanation for this. Trump was a businessman, surely he understands numbers?

Also, some relevant charts from the article.

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