Inn this June 6, 2018, photo, Senior White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh

As budget deficit grows, White House’s Kudlow plays make-believe

Republicans’ interest in the budget deficit has long been something of a joke. When Democrats are in power, GOP official pretend to care deeply about “fiscal responsibility” and insist that every penny of a budget shortfall is a crime against future generations. When Republicans are in power, these same officials tend to forget what a deficit is.

As one congressional Republican conceded last fall, in reference to the deficit, “It’s a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-led. It’s a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the administration.”

It’s so different, in fact, that the deficit is starting to balloon again, thanks in large part to the tax breaks for the wealthy signed by Donald Trump. This, of course, follows a Barack Obama presidency in which the deficit, at one point, had shrunk by $1 trillion. (That’s “trillion,” with a “t.”)

Common sense suggests the White House should simply avoid this topic altogether, especially given the fact that Trump told voters he could eliminate the deficit altogether if elected. And yet, there was Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, on Fox Business Network, pretending reality is upside down.

“As the economy gears up, more people working, better jobs and careers, those revenues come rolling in and the deficit, which was one of the other criticisms, is coming down. And it’s coming down rapidly.

“Growth solves a lot of problems.”

You have got to be kidding me.

Look, I realize Trump World often has a strained relationship with the truth, but words like “down” still have meaning in English.

The United States’ annual budget deficit is not “coming down,” and it’s certainly not “coming down rapidly.” Reality points in the exact opposite direction.

The federal government’s annual budget deficit is set to widen significantly in the next few years, and is expected to top $1 trillion in 2020 despite healthy economic growth, according to new projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released Monday.

The national debt, which has exceeded $21 trillion, will soar to more than $33 trillion in 2028, according to the budget office. By then, debt held by the public will almost match the size of the nation’s economy, reaching 96 percent of gross domestic product, a higher level than any point since just after World War II and well past the level that economists say could court a crisis. […]

This fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the budget deficit is expected to total $804 billion, up from $665 billion last fiscal year, according to the projections. In a decade, the red ink is expected to reach $1.5 trillion.

Here’s a chart to help drive the point home. Red columns point to Republican administrations, blue columns point to Democratic administrations, and red-and-blue columns point to years in which the fiscal year was split between presidents from two different parties.

Trump and his team have a few rhetorical choices. They could argue that they no longer care about the deficit, and it’s not a big deal. They could also argue that the current trend is temporary, and they’ll focus on deficit reduction at some point in the future.

But telling a national television audience that the deficit is “coming down rapidly” is demonstrably ridiculous.

Deficit and Deficits

As budget deficit grows, White House's Kudlow plays make-believe