Trump ran up the federal deficit more than either Obama or Bush: conservative economist
Sixteen months into Joe Biden’s presidency, Republican strategists are doing something they did during Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House: promoting the GOP as the party of fiscal responsibility. But those Republican deficit hawks didn’t do a lot of complaining when Donald Trump was president and the United States’ federal deficit was rapidly increasing. And according to a new report by conservative economist Brian Riedl, Trump did more to increase the deficit than either Obama or the U.S. president who preceded him, George W. Bush.
Riedl’s report, titled “Trump’s Fiscal Legacy: A Comprehensive Overview of Spending, Taxes, and Deficits,” was released on May 12. And he discusses his findings in an op-ed published by the Daily Beast over Memorial Day Weekend on Sunday, May 29.
“Donald Trump’s final tab is in,” explains Riedl, who served as lead research fellow on federal budget and spending policy for the Heritage Foundation from 2001-2011. “Legislation and executive actions signed by former President Trump added $7.8 trillion in ten-year budget deficits. When accounting for non-legislative budget savings, the total projected budget deficits expanded by $3.9 trillion over the decade. These figures appear in my new report, ‘Trump’s Fiscal Legacy: A Comprehensive Overview of Spending, Taxes, and Deficits,’ which analyzes Congressional Budget Office data.”
Riedl notes that his report “begins with the ten-year, 2017-2027, budget baseline that Trump inherited in January 2017” and “then measures all subsequent changes to those ten-year estimates that occurred during his presidency.”
“When President Trump was inaugurated, the CBO projected $10 trillion in deficits over the 2017-2027 decade,” Riedl explains. “By the time Trump left office, CBO’s estimate had grown to $13.9 trillion. Reducing deficits from the $10 trillion projection should have been easy. During Trump’s presidency, faster-than-expected economic growth raised the ten-year revenue projections by $1.3 trillion, and lower-than-expected interest rates shaved the ten-year interest cost projections by $2.6 trillion.”
Riedl continues, “That’s $3.9 trillion in automatic budget savings without lifting a finger. Instead of building on those savings, the president helped enact $7.8 trillion in new initiatives, flipping his total fiscal imprint to a $3.9 trillion net cost.”
Riedl also criticizes Democratic lawmakers in his op-ed, writing that although they “understandably decried the Trump deficits,” they “share much of the responsibility.” But when Riedl makes a Trump/Obama/Bush comparison, he emphasizes that Trump did the most to increase the United States’ federal deficit.
“From a fiscal responsibility point of view, President Trump’s record compares poorly to his predecessors,” the former Heritage Foundation researcher writes. “Using the same methodology, former President Barack Obama added $5 trillion in legislative costs over a decade, while former President George W. Bush added $6.9 trillion.”
Riedl continues, “Not only did Trump sign more ten-year debt into law than his immediate predecessors, he also did it in just a single four-year presidential term, compared to his predecessors’ eight years in the Oval Office…. There is no dispute that President Trump left the federal budget outlook in poor shape. He departed the White House with the largest peacetime budget deficit in American history, and a national debt exceeding 100% of the economy for the first time since World War II.”
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