Trump Shrugs Off Reports Of An Approaching Debt Crisis
Trump has reportedly told aides that he doesn't really care about reports of an approaching crisis of the budget deficit and national debt because he'll be out of office before it becomes a problem.
Donald Trump has reportedly told aides that he doesn’t care about the national debt because it won’t really become a problem until after he leaves office:
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have tried to convince him of the importance of tackling the national debt.
Sources close to the president say he has repeatedly shrugged it off, implying that he doesn’t have to worry about the money owed to America’s creditors—currently about $21 trillion—because he won’t be around to shoulder the blame when it becomes even more untenable.
The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office.
“Yeah, but I won’t be here,” the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt.
The episode illustrates the extent of the president’s ambivalence toward tackling an issue that has previously animated the Republican Party from the days of Ronald Reagan to the presidency of Barack Obama.
But for those who have worked with Trump, it was par for the course. Several people close to the president, both within and outside his administration, confirmed that the national debt has never bothered him in a truly meaningful way, despite his public lip service. “I never once heard him talk about the debt,” one former senior White House official attested.
[R]ight-leaning reformers shouldn’t be holding their breath.
The Washington Post recently reported that Trump had instructed his Cabinet to devise plans to trim their budgets in an effort to reduce the federal deficit. But Trump also set strict limits on what sorts of programs could be cut—and quickly proceeded to propose increased spending in other areas of the federal government.
“He understands the messaging of it,” the former senior White House official told The Daily Beast. “But he isn’t a doctrinaire conservative who deeply cares about the national debt, especially not on his watch… It’s not actually a top priority for him… He understands the political nature of the debt but it’s clearly not, frankly, something he sees as crucial to his legacy.”
The former Trump official adding, “It’s not like it’s going to haunt him.”
To be fair to the President, he has never been known as a deficit or national debt hawk in the manner that many other Republicans and conservatives have been. It’s an issue that he rarely brought up on the campaign trail except as a cudgel to attack his opponents in the race for the Republican nomination or the General Election or the Administration of former President Obama and former President Clinton. Since he has become President, he’s done nothing of substance to deal with either rising budget deficits or the broader national debt, nor has he put forward anything resembling a coherent plan to deal with either of these issues. The fact that he would say things like this behind closed doors, while shocking were it coming from another President, is therefore entirely consistent with the generally lackadaisical attitude he’s shown toward the issue from the time that he entered politics. Granted, it is an irresponsible position for a sitting President to take but that’s something that can be said about so many other things that this President has done and said over the past two years that it hardly comes as a shock anymore.
If the charge of hypocrisy is to be laid anywhere, it ought to be laid at the feet of the rest of the Republican Party, and especially the Republicans on Capitol Hill who have apparently decided that issues such as the budget deficit and national debt. During the Obama years, of course, and especially after the 2010 elections, Republicans liked to put forward the image of toeing the line when it came to what it claimed was out of control spending. This led to several occasions during the years between 2011 and 2017 when there would be confrontations between Congress and the White House, including one in the summer of 2011 over the issue of raising the debt ceiling and another in 2013 that led to a government shutdown that lasted for more than two weeks, although in that case the issue that led to the crisis was a rather foolish effort to “defund” the Affordable Care Act,” an effort that ultimately failed. To some extent, these confrontations were successful in bringing spending under control through the adoption of the Budget Control Act, which put caps on discretionary spending and forced Congress to find ways to “pay for” additional spending. To a large degree, those agreements, which were largely bipartisan in nature, went a long way toward bringing the budget deficit, which was exceeding $1 trillion per year in the years after the Great Recession into a far more manageable territory.
All of that seemed to change once Republicans had control of the House, Senate, and White House. For the past two years, we’ve seen Republicans in Congress look the other way as spending controls that had been in place for six years were essentially voided as spending on all forms of discretionary spending increased well beyond its normal levels and well beyond even what the agencies themselves were requesting. As a result, by the beginning of this year, we were being told that Federal Budget deficits were heading back into the $1 trillion per year range and likely to stay there for quite some time to come. . As The New York Times noted at the time, this effectively means that Republicans have learned to love the deficits and debt they once claimed to abhor. In other words, the Republican Party, which had spent the Obama years railing about spending and deficits, had become the party of deficits and debt. By April, the Congressional Budget Office had officially forecast that we’d be seeing trillion dollars deficits by the end of Fiscal Year 2019 and just a few months later, the national debt crossed a new benchmark and was north of $21 trillion. By the end of the last Fiscal Year, we were well on our way there, with the budget deficit hitting $895 billion for Fiscal Year 2018, likely meaning that will surpass the trillion dollar mark this year.
The behavior of the Republican Congress here isn’t without precedent. Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress for all but the last two years of the Presidency of George W. Bush and, while they were in power, they did virtually nothing to bring spending under control. Indeed, they did quite the opposite. Early in the Administration, of course, they passed tax cuts on a largely party-line vote that had a real impact on government revenue in superseding years. While there’s nothing wrong per se with tax cuts, there is most assuredly something wrong with cutting tax revenues while failing to cut spending, but the Republicans did worse than that. In addition to passing a tax cut that had a measurable impact on revenue, they also significantly increased spending not only on a military budget needed to pay for simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also massive increases in non-defense discretionary spending and entitlements, such as the massive expansion of Medicare’s prescription drug coverage known as “Part D.” Again, even if you can make a case that these individual programs were a good idea from a policy point of view, the idea of massively increasing spending while simultaneously reducing revenue is utter insanity. We should have learned that lesson in the first decade of this century, but here we are repeating it again.
So, yes, the President’s apparent lackadaisical attitude toward the deficit and the debt is yet another shocking display of lack leadership, but it comes on top of so many other examples of a lack of leadership on Trump’s part that it’s hardly a surprise. The fact that Republicans on Capitol Hill to even lift a finger on the issue, though, is nothing but pure hypocrisy. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which is worse.
Once again, I’m left to mourn that “Trump is racist!” is the watchword of the opposition rather than the more salient and obvious point that he’s really bad at his job.
Why not both?
To be fair Doug, there hasn’t been a deficit or national debt hawk in the GOP in almost 2 decades. They get power, they pass deficit exploding tax cuts, start unfunded, endless and off budget wars, then blame DEMs because they won’t allow the destruction of Social Security and Medicare.
The only substantive difference between trump and the rest of the GOP is he skips the whole mouthing of meaningless platitudes about how “We have to do something!!!” and goes straight to the part of doing something to make the problem even worse.
I totally agree with Mr. Trump on this. A simple look at history completely explains this. Ronald Reagan ran what were unprecedented deficits during his term spending the money on a military buildup. This led to an economic problem that doomed GHW Bush to a single term despite Bush’s military victory in Kuwait. Ronald Reagan is widely hailed as brilliant on economic policy by Republicans. Trump is following this playbook.
Will this work? Look at how faith leaders such as Franklin Graham praise him as a Godly man. Republican economists will be reaching for the thesaurus to find words of praise for Trump.
To be successful as an American politician one must not study Adam Smith or Karl Marx; P.T. Barnum should be your guiding light.
You don’t think the Evangelicals took Marx to heart? Aren’t they promoting the opiate of the masses? Of course, now they are real opiates available.
Also, bringing up Reagan it’s illustrative about a thing Marx got wrong. Sometimes when history repeats, farce precedes tragedy.
Asking the wrong dude…
A muddy message is confusing. If the president is racist then it’s actually a good thing that he’s incompetent, right?
Rule One: Republicans have no actual beliefs aside from a craving for power. That’s the beginning, middle and end of what they actually believe. Fiscal prudence? No. Rule of law? No. Reverence for institutions? Hah! American leadership in the world? No. The Constitution: No, with the exception of the 2d amendment. Respect for the military? No. Federalism? Only when it serves the needs of racists.
Rule Two: Whatever the Republicans accuse Democrats of doing, they are actually doing themselves. reckless spending, alienating allies, voter fraud.
The deficit is exploding because there is a Republican in the White House.
Nothing to do with Individual #1.
Congress wrote the tax bill. Individual #1 doesn’t even know what is in it.
I don’t think that ‘Trump’s a racist’ is the watchword at all these days. We’ve known that Trump is a racist, he’s shown that constantly and consistently over that past 40 years or so, but, that’s not the issue here.
On deficits and the national debt Trump is out in the open on this, and as a prominent Republican, Dick Cheney said a few years ago, Ronald Reagan proved that in politics, “deficits don’t matter.”
And once again our moderately clever Trumper is first out of the gate in an attempt to derail the conversation…
It may be you need a GOP Congress and a Democratic president to bring the deficit down.
In a twist on a Futurama scene, the GOP is left hollering “Your 785 billion dollar deficit goes too far! Our trillion dollar deficit does not go far enough!!”
Trump has mastered making doublethink compulsory for his followers. On the one hand he makes it sound as though low spending by NATO partners costs the US money. On the other he wants to enlarge the US military’s budget.
My hypothesis is that one can balance a country’s budget, and even run a surplus. For a short time. The majority of the time you’ll have deficits. the trick is to keep them, and their ancillary debt, at manageable levels.
Lastly, I think in the Reagan era the typical Federal budget was around $1 trillion. That’s now the size of the expected deficit. I don’t think inflation account for all of it.
Something about Trump: He can’t see the broader implications of his actions or statements.
When I read this yesterday, I was shocked. No, not Casablanca shocked, shocked… but really so.
Back in 2016, when I spoke with people that really considered themselves conservatives, their reason for holding their nose and voting for Trump was that he would address the growing deficit.
“Yeah, but I won’t be here” is a solid punch in the gut to those who supported him.
“Yeah, but I won’t be here” could realistically address the mindset of every policy that his team puts forward. Economic, environmental, fed /state rights, … the list goes on.
… just shocked. He is the malevolent Chauncey Gardiner.
Yes, but they were lying. That was just the most acceptable rationalization they could come up with. Republicans don’t care about deficits, they only care about spending on minorities. The rest of their deficit posturing is, and always has been, bullshit.
Here is what the people who know Trump all of his life think of his acumen: in 2016 he won 10% of the votes in New York county (Manhattan). He is fulfilling their expectations.
Actually, he brought it up repeatedly, claiming he’d pay off the entire debt in just 8 years.
The Koch Bros et al ginned up a lot of Tea Party faux concern about the deficit as a tool to weaken Obama, not because they give a spit about the deficit. Now, they paid the Republicans for tax cuts and they expect the Rs to deliver tax cuts, deficit be damned. Except if the GOPs can use the deficit to screw the little people by cutting SS, Medicare, and Medicaid, well that’s a bonus for the Koch Bros. (Koch Bro really, since apparently David’s gone gah gah. But it was always really Charles so I’ll continue to use Koch Bros as a shorthand for the whole GOP Billionaire Boys Club.)
Depends on who you talk to. I rarely hear people on the left complain about his job performance.
@MarkedMan: You don’t get to define me so stop trying.
You need to get out of your mom’s basement more.
Once again, Pearce: try doing the work.
I hear people on the left complain about anything and damn near everything he does
You’ve defined yourself by the positions you’ve taken.
Similarly, I rarely hear basketball fans talking about Lebron James. And I’ve never read an article in Rolling Stone that gushes about Beyonce.
I think the stock market is trying to tell Individual #1 something.
Seriously, what are your sources for these “people on the left” that you are talking about?
Like, list some examples…
“Yeah, but I won’t be here” is the arrogant refrain of someone with (temporary) power who’s forgotten the old ways of dealing with people like him. In these civilized, enlightened times, he doesn’t fear having his door kicked down and dragged out in the street to be tarred and feathered by a raging mob…. or worse. In fact, the vaunted invisible hand of the market was traditionally to serve a pimp slap for capitalists who abuse the public so but he’s not afraid. He feels secure that even living his life out of office, he will not be held accountable for his actions and the horrible consequences they bring. After all, even if he makes it to the end of a second terms, he’s reasonably got a decade or two more on this earth but he has no concern for what might happen to the already unpopular person who blew it all up.
It’s like he thinks we’ll all forget as soon as he walks out the door: what’s he’s done, what it’s cost us and most of all, where he lives. Florida’s home to a lot of crazies, dontcha know……
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
And apparently you need a refresher, and better jokes.
I’m at work, making my hourly wage, but doesn’t matter, because I’m not following you down your “it’s racism, racism, and more racism” rabbit hole anyway. My hypothesis is a bit more complicated than that and spreads the blame around a little more.
And I’ll continue to define myself without seeking any input from the folks who like to talk to me like I’m their punching bag. Thanks.
I do agree that Democrats should be attacking MORE Trump on the economy(I think that McCaskill, Donnelly and Heitkamp should have talked exclusively about tariffs), but the low unemployment numbers make this job much more difficult.
The Boomers in six words.
This is pretty much his plan on global warming too, isn’t it? Die before the worst effects.
If/when this deficit leads to cuts to social security, and our seniors eating cat food to survive, can we make sure the Trump children are turned into cat food?
In science, a hypothesis that can’t be tested, or a theory that makes no predictions, is classified, informally, as being “not even wrong.” Meaning there’s no way to falsify it (to prove it wrong), and therefore cannot be proven right. It adds nothing.
Pearce is not even wrong.
@James Pearce: I normally don’t bother to respond to your particular brand of rhetorical tripe (except to do an occasional hit and run) but find this post to be particularly loathsome and disingenuous to the extreme. From the first time that Trump put his toe in the electoral waters to hype a final episode of The Apprentice to this very day, my lone and sole objection to Trump as President has been that he is comprehensively unsuited to the job and would be incompetent in performance. I have never offered racism as a general grounds for objection to Trump and am all too aware that many racists have been elected to executive office who had enough concern for the country and its citizens–or at least most of them–to be competent leaders at both the state and national levels.
Moreover, I have not seen this whole “I’m left to mourn that “Trump is racist!” is the watchword of the opposition” line of bullshit that you continually peddle as representative of the thoughts of this community. We are clear and lucid in our objections to Trump and what they are as well as our objections to what and who he is. If you want to make a case that we are deficient in our fealty to your hobby horse, show your data and make your case.
I don’t expect that you will even attempt to make a case and show data, so my hope is that you might pull a Bunge and disappear for a few days to spare us the tedium of your drivel. I expect that you will simply shrug me off as one of “the haters” and carry on with your mindlessness. Please feel free to disappoint my expectations.
@James Pearce: And once again Pearce declares that the only proper subject of any thread is Pearce.
@OzarkHillbilly: I must object, wasn’t your line supposed to be
@Hal_10000: Yeah, but I won’t be here,” The Boomers in six words.”
And today’s award for laziest comment on the internet goes to…
Trump’s preferred method for dealing with debt is bankruptcy, stay tuned.
Trump’s approach to debt is precisely the same approach to climate change. He’ll be gone and therefore doesn’t matter. Narcissism to the extreme. Doesn’t even care about the future of his family.
@Gustopher: It’ll have to be feral or foreign cats. I’m not sure that American house cats would ever be hungry enough to eat Trump’s children.
There is a good point in the first comment by James Pearce: these weirdo, far right demagogues like Trump, Bolsonaro or Berlusconi can only be defeated if you treat them like normal politicians(As Luigi Zingales once pointed out).
They can’t be beaten on these cultural issues.
In Brazil Bolsonaro numbers in the polls began to suffer only when his main rival began to attack him in the economy and stopped talked about his misogynistic declarations.
But part of the problem is that it’s very difficult to attack Trump on the economy if there is full employment. That was a huge problem for the Democrats during the Reagan years(The recession that many Democrats predicted would only happen two years after Reagan had left office).
@Andre Kenji de Sousa: Reagan’s political brilliance (more luck than skill as it seems to have really been Paul Volcker’s doing) consisted of having his recession early. He beat Carter because of a recession that was ending, then Volker, as Fed Chair, deliberately drove us right back into recession. Eventually they had to end their tight money policy because the Mexican banks were about to collapse. As soon as they loosened up, the economy recovered (without inflation, proving Uncle Milty Friedman wrong). The following normal recovery constituted the “miracle of Reaganomics”.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: That… was a thing of beauty.
@Andre Kenji de Sousa:
I more or less agree, but that’s essentially what Dems have been doing for the most part. During the midterms, most of the Dem candidates ran on bread-and-butter issues, not by screaming “Trump is a racist!”
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
And yet, Hillary had her deplorables, Huff Post had their “Trump is a racist” disclaimer. Millions of people have spent the better part of the past 3 years citing Trump’s racism.
So maybe rather than thinking I’m falsely accusing you of something you didn’t do, maybe consider I’m not even talking about you in the first place, but talking about stuff that is nonetheless happening, not in my Mom’s basement, but in the world out there.
The economy is strong and yet Trump is stuck at 42% . He should be at 60%. The difference is Trump’s personality and stand on social issues, especially race and gender.
To be fair, that was going to be something I posted as well but decided against it. Had a whole little paragraph typed up but deleted it because I didn’t want to go there but hey, since the car’s already warmed up….
Trump embodies the worst of the stereotypes about Boomer malfeasance to the following generations and the phrasing he used absolutely doesn’t help. There are an not-insignificant amount of them (many who still hold political power either with an office or the votes that put them there) that are blatant about thinking that way. I’ve had several sympathetic olds baldly state it to my face that my generation was f^cked while they won’t have to pay the piper for what they’ve done.
It’s really, really hard to not listen to that statement and not hear an old man uncaringly note he won’t have to suffer the repercussions of his actions. He’s got what, two decades at most left on this Earth? That’s a max of 5 one-term Presidents he’d have to live through trying to undo the damage of what he’s wrought. That’s 10 Congressional elections (with a depressingly low turnover rate so basically the same faces the whole time) to enact legislation to correct his destruction. He’s not going to see Mar-a-lago swallowed by the sea, Americans illegally migrating to Mexico because of water shortages in the Southwest, our economy permanently damaged and our markets kept aloft only by our sheer purchasing power. It’s simply not going to be an issue for him because even if he gave a damn, he’d be dead before it really hits the fan and he *knows* it.
Millennials look at Boomers like Trump and hear the same refrain: “I’ve got mine and I’ll be dead before the bill is due.” He’s just verbalized so clearly you can’t mistake it for anything else.
@Kylopod: That’s why I wrote that Democrats should be talking *more* about the economy, and that some losing candidates should have talked more about tariffs and the economy.
But I also think that the low unemployment rates does not give THAT much space for Democrats to run in the economy.
@KM: Don’t disagree about Trump. I just think that these vast generalizations about entire generations are absurd and the laziest form of social criticism. Not everyone who happened to be alive during World War 2 magically became noble and good by virtue of their birth year; not everyone born in the 90s wears a manbun or eats avacodo toast instead of buying a house; not every boomer is an entitled ex-hippie turned self-involved greedhead. It’s dumber than astrology, which claims that there are basically 12 different types of people in the world and it’s all determined by date of birth — because as least there are 12 astrological signs and far fewer existing “generations.”
Prince and Prince Charles were both born in the “boom.” I don’t think that makes them the same person…
@Andre Kenji de Sousa: You answered your own question there. Dems didn’t talk about the economy more because there wasn’t much traction to be gained on that issue–but there was a lot of traction to be gained talking about the GOP’s toxically unpopular economic policies.
Will that be sufficient in the event that the economy remains in solid shape by 2020? I don’t know. But it was sufficient this year, that’s for sure.
Now, I have a lot of doubts that the federal deficit is a salient issue. I don’t think it ever has been, regardless of which party has invoked it. From the 1980s to today, the voting public pretty much doesn’t care about high deficits as long as their pocketbooks aren’t empty. It’s a deeply abstract issue (as political scientist Jonathan Bernstein has noted, it’s likely most Americans can’t even correctly define what “the deficit” is, and when they say they’re against high deficits in polls it really is just a stand-in for general anxiety about the economy). The Dem message should be about how the GOP is the party of the rich and isn’t standing up for ordinary people like you and me, and they should hammer that theme home. To the extent that the deficit figures into that message, it has to do with the fact that the tax cuts are being used as a pretext to cut popular social programs.
Approval ratings? C’mon…
My sense of the dynamic is that a whole bunch of Republicans do not like or approve of Trump; they just find him more tolerable than the swill served up by left-wing Democrats. A survey came out not too long ago that showed like 80-90% of Americans really, really can’t stand political correctness and all the adjacent wokeness/”social justice” stuff that comes with it.
And yet, Gillibrand tweeted the other day that “the future is female, intersectional” etc. and I thought….oh, great, the future is going to be divisive AF then.
Because when you’re pushing ideology that has an 80% disapproval rating, then the guy with a 42% approval rating actually looks good.
@Kylopod: Here ya go.
@James Pearce: Also from the article:
So…they surveyed regarding one of the most loaded terms in American discourse, but didn’t provide a clear definition of that term, which basically left the survey respondents to fill that definition with whatever negative connotations came immediately to mind.
Subsequently, 80% of those surveyed had a negative view of something they were allowed to self-define negatively.
Subsequently to that, I conclude this survey is horseshit.
@Mikey: To a lot of people, “PC” is just a cover term for hypersensitivity of any kind, and what constitutes that is entirely in the eye of the beholder.
For example, I remember that Siskel and Ebert, both bleeding-heart liberals, frequently complained about PC in movies. But if you listened to them, it quickly became clear they weren’t using the term in the sense the anti-SJW crowd uses it. For instance, one time they had a good laugh when a Mr. Magoo movie featured a disclaimer apologizing for making fun of the nearsighted.
Frankly I doubt a majority of Americans are even much aware of so-called “woke” culture enough to fear or resent it. To non-political junkies, that culture is just not anywhere near as pervasive as the critics imagine.
This is one of the big problems with polls that asks for people’s opinion of some loaded expression without offering any definitions or going into specifics. To me the classic example was a poll in 2010 that asked some respondents whether they favored “gay men and lesbians” serving in the military, while other respondents were asked if they favored “homosexuals” serving in the military. Nearly 20% more of the first group answered affirmatively. I’m still scratching my head over this.
Another anecdote which I found very telling. Several years ago I was reading a blog post critiquing some book that had nothing to do with politics. One of the commenters called the author an idiot. The blogger replied that while he agreed with the criticism there was no need to engage in ad hominem. The commenter retorted “Oh don’t be so PC.”
That’s what “PC” means to a lot of people, just a general term for accusing someone of bending over backwards to avoid saying what they really mean, even if it’s got next to nothing to do with the usual issues of group identity. To some people it means little more than “excessively polite.”
That would be unwise. A better conclusion would be to consider PC, however it’s defined, to be utterly toxic.
Deficit per se are not a salient issue. The effects of the deficit can be a salient issue. In the 90’s deficit became an issue because the Fed refused to print money, so, they had to raise interest rates.
My thinking is that creating a stimulus during full employment is completely asinine(I live in country that tried precisely that).
But voters will only care about deficits when(And specially if) they create either higher interest rates or inflation. Until them, they will not care. But again, the 80’s proved that it’s very difficult to run on *future* recessions.
But if they encounter it, they recoil from it.
@James Pearce: Dodge, but artful just the same. I would suggest that you reread the challenge to you and keep the focus on what the thread comments have had for content, but I see that you needed to go back to before the election for your data, so I’m satisfied that your quiver is empty; vade in pace.
Yes it does have a… Pearce-esque (?) … quality to it. I see that.
Yeah. It seems to have a neo-Malthusian feel to it. The debt is orders of magnitude larger than in Reagan’s day, and yet hasn’t reached critical mass yet.
I think that the issue is not “PC”. The point is that you can’t win elections if you reject more than half of the voters. The fact that candidates that appeal to a masculinity(Even if it’s a fake and phony masculinity) like Trump and Bolsonaro are winning elections shows that the left can’t ignore the half of the population that has “XY” Chromosomes.
@just nutha: Talking about deficits and national debt is often tactical; we can’t do policy A (say – national health care) because it’s too expensive — besides we have to do policy B (say – invasion of Iraq). Obviously the debt is not the real reason for choosing B over A. We know this.
But there is some figure that will appear on the debt side of the page that will lead to such great payments on past Treasuries that there is a big problem.
I’m thoroughly ignorant of where that line may be. Don’t even know all the variables. But surely the edge is out there somewhere.