Actually, Joe Biden Has Doubled the Deficit

Published September 7, 2023

Over the past two years, President Joe Biden has made numerous statements suggesting that he is a deficit hawk on par with past presidents such as Calvin Coolidge or Andrew Jackson. For instance, earlier this year, Biden claimed, “In my first two years, I reduced the debt by $1.7 trillion. No President has ever done that.”

In reality, Biden was half right. No president, including Biden, has ever done anything close to reducing the national debt by such a giant amount in his first two years or any two-year period for that matter.

Here are the facts. When Biden entered the White House, the national debt stood at $27.7 trillion. Two years later, the national debt stands at $32.9 trillion. Using simple arithmetic, the national debt has increased by $5.2 trillion under Biden. That is a big difference from a $1.7 trillion reduction.

However, I’ll do Joe a favor and give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was referring to the deficit, not the debt.

So, let’s take a peek at annual deficits under the Biden administration. In fiscal year 2021, the federal deficit registered at $2.8 trillion. In fiscal year 2022, the deficit was $1.4 trillion. And, in fiscal year 2023, the deficit is expected to surpass the $2 trillion threshold, again.

Before analyzing these figures, I must mention that fiscal years (FY) are different from calendar years because fiscal years encompass the period from October 1 through September 30. This matters quite a bit because fiscal year 2021 included a $920 billion COVID-19 relief package signed into law by President Donald Trump in late December of 2020. In other words, days before Biden entered the Oval Office, another $1 trillion was added to the deficit under the Trump administration, which basically accounts for the deficit reduction from FY 2021 to FY 2022 that Biden takes credit for.

Interestingly, as Biden takes victory laps for the deficit reduction that occurred from FY 2021 to FY 2022, we must not forget that this hollow triumph took place despite Biden, not because of him. By this, I am referring to the fact that immediately upon taking office, Biden signed into law the massive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which completely obliterated any deficit reduction that would have come to fruition once the previous COVID-19 spending bills came off the books.

More importantly, we know that Biden was not looking to cut spending by a single penny after he took the oath of office. In fact, he sought to supersize federal spending via his Build Back Better agenda, which ultimately failed to pass in Congress. But, Biden was able to get his $1.1 trillion infrastructure plan along with his $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act and his $280 billion CHIPS Act through Congress, which has vastly increased, not reduced, the deficit under his watch.

During his two-and-a-half years as president, Biden has also increased spending in several other ways. He has increased SNAP benefits, aka food stamps, by 27 percent. On top of that, he has also greenlit $135 billion in aid to Ukraine.

Unfortunately, due to Biden’s profligate spending, the 10-year outlook for the federal government’s budget gets worse by the day. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “Deficits fluctuate over the next four years, averaging 5.8 percent of GDP. Starting in 2028, they grow steadily; the projected shortfall in 2033 is 6.9 percent of GDP—significantly larger than the 3.6 percent of GDP that deficits have averaged over the past 50 years.”

Even worse is our national debt situation, which CBO estimates, “is projected to rise from 98 percent of GDP in 2023 to 118 percent in 2033…Over that period, the growth of interest costs and mandatory spending outpaces the growth of revenues and the economy, driving up debt. Those factors persist beyond 2033, pushing federal debt higher still, to 195 percent of GDP in 2053.”

In other words, we are on an unsustainable path. To be fair, both parties, and several recent presidents, have put us in this mess. This is not solely due to Biden’s big government programs.

But, as the current president, Biden is responsible for making the problem worse, not better.

Eventually, we will have to actually reduce both the deficit and the national debt. It will not be easy. It will require compromises and sacrifices. But, the more we wait, the worse it gets.

We need a leader in the White House who is willing to come clean with the American people about our out-of-control spending and debt accumulation. Sadly, President Biden does not appear to be up for that task.

Photo by Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.