'What say you?' Chuck Todd and Pete Buttigieg spar over how to reduce the national debt

'What say you?' Chuck Todd and Pete Buttigieg spar over how to reduce the national debt
Image via screengrab.

While the United States House of Representatives was voting to approve a rule to pass an increase to the Treasury Department's borrowing cap on Wednesday, NBC anchor Chuck Todd hosted a conversation with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the American economy's relationship with the perpetually growing $31.47 trillion national debt.

"Let's talk about the accumulated debt because we've been telling people for so long that accumulating this debt is gonna become a — you've had former chairman of the joint chiefs saying it was a national security issue. That was in 2011 with Mike Mullen. We've been talking about, 'oh my God, this is going to become a problem at some point,' and yet our economy keeps growing. Our ability to hold more debt continues to grow. Do we have a debt problem in this country or not?" Todd asked. "What say you?"

Buttigieg's response delved into the complexities behind what drives the national debt.

READ MORE: Kevin McCarthy pledges to explore 'uncomfortable' cuts to Medicare and Social Security

"Well, one thing I'll say is that we have been working to reduce the deficit, which is the first step in reducing the debt. You know..." Buttigieg began.

"Right. But the debt does keep growing. We've yet to re — we haven't reduced it. We've just slow, we've slowed the, we've slowed the rate of growth a bit," Todd noted.

Buttigied pressed on, digging deeper into the US borrows so much money:

Yeah. I mean, again, the, the first thing you gotta do if you wanna see that debt come down is to get a handle on the deficit. The president's budget — by the president's budget as submitted, but, but also, uh, the, the deal that has been struck acts to, to reduce the deficit. We've been clear on how we think you get there, making sure that the wealthiest in corporations pay their fair share. That it can be done while being reasonable in holding the line on spending, but not inflicting self-defeating cuts. And that's one thing I want to emphasize, and your question kind of got to that, you know, part of what makes it possible for us to sustain our fiscal path is the continued strong growth of the American economy. And I would point to infrastructure as exhibit A of where you can be penny-wise and pound-foolish. If, if you think that, you know, every expenditure that isn't defense needs to be cut in the name of. Doing something about the debt, you might actually be hamstringing the very economic growth that you need. So I think most Americans appreciate that we need to reduce the deficit, that we don't want to just continue seeing the debt escalate without believing that as to lead to these, these kinds of savage cuts, especially if Congress hasn't been willing to make sure that the wealthy pay their fair share, which is why — and we point to things like the enforcement provisions that help make sure you have fewer tax cheats — which is something that adds to the debt without creating any economic value.

Todd then pointed out the circular impasse that stymies progress on reducing the debt.

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"But it is interesting to me. It does feel as if each party has come to the, has come to this uncomfortable, 'well, look, uh, we're not raising taxes,' is what Republicans say, and Democrats are like, 'we're not gonna really, we don't wanna reduce spending here, we think spending creates economic growth, they think tax cuts creates economic growth,' aren't we doomed to never lower the debt?" Todd wondered.

"Well look, the, again, the first step in lowering the debt is lowering the deficit. Last president blew up the deficit. This president's cutting it down," Buttigieg recalled of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, respectively, adding, "That's what it looks like to begin making progress on this issue, and that's what we'll continue to pursue."

Buttigieg's assessments are true, based on data provided by Deficit Tracker.

Watch the exchange below or at this link.

READ MORE: The debt ceiling deal reflects a permanent feature of American democracy

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