Money & The EconomyOpinion

Consider the public debt when casting your vote.

Despite the biased rhetoric, according to the US Treasury Biden increased the Public Debt by $7.85 trillion to Trump’s $5.5 trillion.

The Congressional Budget Office just announced its projection for the federal government budget deficit for fiscal year 2024. They project the deficit will be about $2 trillion. That means President Biden will have added more to the public debt than any president in history.

Before President Biden’s huge deficits, President Trump held the record for most deficit spending. According to the US Treasury:

According to the Treasury Department the annual deficits for 2017 to 2023 ($ Trillions) with 2024 estimated to be $2 trillion. Trump’s total $5.56 trillion. Biden’s total $7.85 trillion.

That means by year-end the total public debt will be about $35 trillion. Annual interest payments on that debt will be more than $800 billion this year and will climb to $1 trillion within the next few years, especially considering the refinanced debt will have much higher interest rates than the original debt.

The Trump administration kept the annual budget deficit under $1 trillion for the first three years. Then in March 2020, COVID forced the government to completely shut down the economy leading to a recession. To prevent the recession from deepening, Congress passed massive stimulative spending increases.

That caused the annual 2020 deficit to soar to over $3 trillion. However, the Trump administration wanted the economy to recover rapidly to a V-shaped recovery. It worked splendidly. The economy recovered quickly, and the unemployment rate fell rapidly. That stimulus was sufficient to put the economy back on track.

In 2021, the economy grew at over a six percent rate. No additional stimulus spending was needed. Yet the Biden Administration passed what they called the American Rescue Plan and then the Inflation Reduction Act. Since the economy didn’t need rescuing, all the resulting deficit spending did was add to the Public Debt and cause inflation.

In the past, Congress set a ceiling for the total amount of public debt. That was supposed to keep this debt from ballooning out of control. However, because of deep divides between the political parties, Congress could not agree on how much to raise the debt ceiling, so the debt ceiling was suspended allowing massive increases.

The Biden Administration was more concerned with spending on social programs and fighting climate change. That resulted in large increases in government spending which created huge deficits in 2021 to 2024.

In fact, every president since John Kennedy incurred ever-increasing annual deficits. Each essentially said they were not seriously concerned with the size of the public debt. Every president had economists who argued the public debt was manageable. All past presidents decided to let the next administration deal with the problem so each “kicked the can down the road.”

The problem today is that we are at the end of the road. Whoever is elected president in November will finally have to deal with the debt problem. The first step is to reduce the annual deficit.

There are only two ways to do that. Either spending is reduced or tax revenue increased. If Biden wins, based on his record over the past four years, it is unlikely that spending will be reduced. Biden will instead raise tax rates mostly on corporations and on those who supply new capital to the economy. For that reason, raising tax rates will slow economic activity and not lead to substantial increases in revenue. Biden will also increase government regulations.

If Trump wins, he will reduce tax rates which will increase economic activity and lead to increases in tax revenue. In 2018 Trump convinced Congress to cut taxes by about 10% for all Americans. While growth increased only slightly in 2019, it appeared that the growth rate would reach 4% in 2020 had the pandemic not occurred.

Trump will also hold the line on government spending mostly by eliminating unnecessary programs and he will eliminate counter-productive regulations. In general, Trump favors individual responsibility over social responsibility, lower tax rates and less government spending. Biden favors exactly the opposite: more social responsibility, higher tax rates and a larger role for government.

Biden’s policies will cause slower growth and larger deficits, leading to an even larger public debt.

The debt is already too high and will burden future generations. Think about that when you decide who to vote for in November.

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Michael Busler

Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years.

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