In wee morning of February 25th, at that odd and horrible time when our “So-Called President” unleashes himself and vents into his favorite 140 character platform of expression, Donald Trump slipped out his silk sheets and reached for his phone. It was the bitching hour.
Trump first tweeted about the national debt:
“In my first month went down by $12 billion”
And went on to add that under President Obama the national debt had gone up by $200 billion. Though the numbers sort of seem to check out on the surface, there’s a bit more going on than meets the causal eye.
Is it at all plausible that the Trump administration reduced the national debt despite not passing any orders on the budget? Can our national debt crisis truly be solved by gloating and signing executive orders like a spoiled child putting together a christmas list?
It’s highly unlikely, according to Donald Marron, who directs Economic Policy Initiatives at the Urban Institute. Here’s how the numbers add- or rather, fail to add up.
The Obama administration left the White House with cash on hand, meaning that the Trump team did not have to borrow any money during their first month in office. In other words, since they didn’t borrow, they did not increase the debt. About that $12 billion, according to economist Dan Mitchell, during short time periods national debt levels naturally fluctuate. Considering that the Trump administration has not instituted any economic orders that actively reduced the national debt, it seems that the Trump administration, as well as conservative-leaning news outlets, are crediting the new president with a national debt reduction that was part luck and in part delivered by the Obama administration.
Further, when President Trump begins to institute his policies, along with their corresponding price tags, the national debt will most likely increase. Critics point to the border wall which could cost taxpayers between roughly $12 to $25 billion. He also plans to increase the military’s might by hiring on 50,000 additional service members, strengthening the Navy’s fleet and increasing the number of Air Force aircraft. His infrastructure plan is also costly, with estimates in the trillion dollar range. With so much spending on the horizon, it is difficult to determine if this temporary reduction is an anomaly, if it is a harbinger of future reductions, or if this $12 billion reduction will be not only a number, but part of a topic future tweets will fail to address.