- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2017

President Trump chastised the press Saturday for not covering the national debt, which has ticked down slightly since he took office, saying that by contrast the debt jumped higher by $200 billion in President Barack Obama’s first month.

But the debt actually had been holding fairly steady since just before Thanksgiving, or about two months before Mr. Trump took office. It stood at $19.9 trillion as of the middle of November, came within a whisker of $20 trillion around the new year, and now stands at $19.9 trillion again.

To the exact penny, the debt is $33,403,435,024.34 less than it was on Jan. 20.

By contrast, the debt was $10.6 trillion when Mr. Obama took office and reached $10.8 trillion a month later, as the government borrowed heavily from taxpayers in the future to splash cash throughout the economy, hoping massive spending and tax cuts would stave off an even deeper recession.

Mr. Trump took to Twitter to demand credit: “The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.”

Budget watchdogs praised Mr. Trump for keeping an eye on the debt, but said the fluctuations since he took office show normal Treasury transactions, and don’t suggest any broader changes to the country’s underlying debt problem, which is on track to become the worst in U.S. history.

“Going forward, the president will be accountable for his plans to bring down the debt, and we look forward to seeing the debt path he proposes in his forthcoming budget,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “He has been critical of the run up in the debt in the past, and we assume and hope his budget will have a plan to shrink our country’s debt, not grow it.”

Mr. Trump is scheduled to present his first budget in March, and Congress also will have to raise the country’s debt limit.

Mr. Obama’s budgets, which regularly called for massive tax cuts and big spending boosts, were met with derision on Capitol Hill for the final six years of his tenure, and had little effect on the actual direction of policy.

But it’s unclear whether Mr. Trump will be able to do better. Republicans in Congress remain divided over defense spending, with some hawks arguing the need for a boost of hundreds of billions of dollars over the next five years, even if it means a deal with Democrats that also raises domestic spending or taxes.

Fiscal conservatives, though, say government taxes and spending are both higher than usual and the answer isn’t to hike them any more.

That split gives Democrats a large amount of leverage in budget and spending negotiations.

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