Fact-checking Donald Trump’s outrageous assertions is a full-time job. But in an interview with Bob Woodward, Trump topped his most incredible claims by saying he could eliminate our $19 trillion debt in eight years.
In outlining his bare-bones plan, Trump makes some startling assumptions that anyone with two brain cells working would recognize as preposterous.
First and most important, the national debt will grow by nearly $7 trillion over the next eight years. So Trump wouldn’t be trying to eliminate a $19 trillion debt, but rather a $27 trillion debt.
First of all, the federal budget is already running a deficit. So before Trump can start paying down the debt, he needs to eliminate the deficit — which year after year, is adding to the deficit.
According to a January projection by the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will run an additional $6.8 trillion in additional deficits between 2017 and 2024. So the task is not $19 trillion, but nearly $26 trillion over eight years.
Why are deficits expected to climb? That’s because the baby-boom generation is retiring, running up the cost of mandatory spending programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. Alone among Republican hopefuls, Trump has pledged not to touch entitlement spending. So unless he wants to start breaking some campaign promises, one presumes he would not seek to change the laws governing most mandatory spending.
That leaves discretionary spending, which Congress votes on year after year and funds the basic functions of government, such as defense, homeland security, highways, and so forth. In the eight years of a putative two-term Trump presidency, the CBO projects a total of $10 trillion in discretionary spending. So even if Trump eliminated every government function and shut down every Cabinet agency, he’d still be $16 trillion short.
Trump says he won’t raise taxes or touch Social Security or Medicare. How does he plan to eliminate the debt? Renegotiate trade deals.
Of all the wildly impossible assertions made by Donald Trump, the notion that he could eliminate the nation’s $19 trillion in debt in just eight years ranks near the top. Trump suggests he can manage this feat simply by cutting better trade deals.
If only it were that easy. As we have noted repeatedly, eliminating a trade deficit does not mean the money ends up in government coffers. (Moreover, Trump is wrong to say the trade deficit with China is $505 billion; it’s $366 billion, according to the Census Bureau. The trade deficit with all countries is $531 billion.)
The problem with fact-checking Trump is that almost everything that comes out of his mouth is exaggerated, made up, or a bald-faced lie. That his worshipful fans fall for his baloney is indicative of a lack of critical thinking skills among a large share of the populace.
But many Republicans don’t seem to care. It’s enough that Trump plays to their anger and fear of the future. On that, they would elect him president despite his zero knowedge of the issues and of government itself.