Campaign Rhetoric On Deficit Can’t Be Normalized

As the presidential race begins to pick up steam, we can all expect to see more embellishments by the candidates of their records.

While this is hardly a new or surprising development, it remains an unfortunate feature of our election cycles.

One increasingly common claim by President Joe Biden’s White House is that his administration has reduced the federal deficit.

But as Robert Farley of the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org noted, the decline in the scope of our unacceptable deficit spending was actually more due to the scheduled expiration of COVID-19 relief measures.

“It’s pretty silly,” Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told Farley. Biden “didn’t cut the deficit, he increased it. … They are taking credit for the fact that deficits fell in 2021-2022 … If they had done nothing, deficits would have fallen by $1 trillion. They fell by much less than they were going to.”

It also inches the U.S. closer to a terrifying precedent, where deficit spending can increase during times of crisis to $4.2 trillion, fall to $3.13 trillion as the crisis abates and federal leaders tell voters that this is significant improvement that deserves to be rewarded with reelection.

The reality is that during a crisis and then as the crisis waned, the federal government put the American people $7.33 trillion deeper into debt.

None of this is to say that the Republican Party has been more responsible in its stewardship of the national debt — the Trump Administration also run up large deficits, starting well before the crisis of COVID-19. It’s the terrible record of irresponsible spending by both parties that led us several weeks ago to editorialize that it might be time for the potential independent bid being mulled by both disaffected Republicans like former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and disaffected Democrats like U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

As we noted then, an independent bid raises an array of questions and concerns. But a new normal in which both the Democratic establishment and Republican establishment can irresponsibly overspend by trillion then pat themselves on the back for overspending by almost, but not quite, as many trillions raises much greater concerns.


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