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Trump Says 'I Won't Be Here' as Reason to Not Work on National Debt
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6 Dec 2018 06:33 PM EST

Trump Says 'I Won't Be Here' as Reason to Not Work on National Debt

 

 

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald Trump insisted he could eliminate the $19 trillion national debt by the end of his second term as president. Instead, the debt has risen to $21 trillion, and his excuse for not doing anything with it is that when it gets completely out of hand, "I won't be here." 

Economists argued against Trump's economic ideas that included across-the-board tax cuts and trade wars. They felt it could damage the United States economically.

 

"I'm renegotiating all of our deals, the big trade deals that we're doing so badly on. With China, $505 billion this year in trade," he said in 2016. He believed new deals would encourage economic growth and allow the U.S. to pay off its debt. 

Since he took office, Trump's aides and advisers have been trying to relay the importance of dealing with the national debt. Sources close to him say he keeps shrugging it off and stating he doesn't need to worry about it because he won't be around as president when it gets completely out of control.

 

 In early 2017 senior officials gave Trump charts and graphs showing the numbers and a "hockey stick" increase in the national debt in the future. 

"Yeah, but I won't be here," Trump stated, according to a source who was present for the discussion.

 

Apparently his words in 2016 were just campaign rhetoric. Several people close to Trump confirm that the national debt isn't really something that bothers him. 

"I never once heard him talk about the debt," said one former senior White House official.

 

The president's former legislative affairs director, Marc Short, believes he recognized "the threat that debt poses" and noted he was concerned about rising interest rates, trying to show that it is something he cares about. 

"But there's no doubt this administration and this Congress need to address spending because we have out-of-control entitlement programs," added Short.

 

"It's fair to say that ... the president would be skeptical of anyone who claims that they would know exactly when a [debt] crisis really comes home to roost." 

Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for Trump, has explained that Trump and his team proposed policies to lower the debt, "including in his first budget that actually would've balanced in 10 years, a historic, common-sense rescissions proposal."

 

He blamed Congress for the lack of attention to the national debt. "While the president has and will continue to do everything in his power to rein in Washington's out-of-control spending," he noted, "the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, and it's time for them to work with this president to reduce the debt." 

Some say Trump is convinced the debt can be solved by means other than tax hikes and spending reductions. Conservative economist Stephen Moore, who advised the president during the 2016 campaign, says he personally assured Trump that the debt could be handled just by focusing on economic growth.

 

"That was why, when he was confronted with these nightmare scenarios on the debt, I think he rejected them, because if you grow the economy ... you don't have a debt problem," Moore reasoned. 

"I know a few times when people would bring up the enormous debt, he would say, 'We're gonna grow our way out of it.' "

 

Yet a current senior Trump administration official claims the president "doesn't really care" about getting the debt under control and prefers "jobs and growth, whatever that means." 

The GOP has gone along with Trump's wishes to reduce taxes sharply while increasing defense and discretionary spending, yet not indicating how they're going to reduce spending on entitlements.

 

But the results were not what was promised on the campaign trail. Economic growth was 4.1% for the past year, while the federal deficit grew as well because the government wasn't bringing in as much money with the tax cuts.  

Trump seemed to have regrets over his approach to economics after Fox News disagreed with his tactics. They believed he was finding Democratic priorities, making the debt worse, and abandoning his promise to build a border wall.

 

While it was reported that Trump instructed his Cabinet to cut their budgets to help lower the national debt, he also limited the programs that could be affected and proposed increased spending in other areas. 

"He understands the messaging of it," said a former White House official, "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." 

"It's not like it's going to haunt him," added the former official.

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