In his state-of-the-union address, President Biden said that he was “the only President ever to cut the deficit by more than one trillion dollars in a single year.” Well, that would be true. The bragging rights belong to this president EXCEPT:
1. That claim will not be true if Mr. Biden passes his “Build Back Better” spending extravaganza, something that he say must be passed.
2. That claim does not cover COVID relief spending, something he asked for again for 2022.
3. That claim does not take into account that the reduction is based on the 2020 budget that included $2 trillion in COVID relief.
4. In December 2020, Congress added another $900 million to that 2020 budget.
5. In March 2021, Congress added another $2 trillion.
If the deficit is indeed declining, it is because the extraordinary COVID spending is not in Mr. Biden’s budget proposal — a total of $4.9 trillion in reductions. Despite all of those reductions, the deficit will still be $1 trillion. And that pesky deficit will remain at that level for a decade. Also, that $1 trillion deficit is actually higher than it was in 2019– the deficit that year was $984 billion and that was a normal year. No COVID spending in that year.
So, the bragging rights, even without the deficit additions of BBB spending, are actually that the deficit has increased, not decreased. It takes some math and detail to understand that, Nonetheless, President Biden has set his claim for bragging rights that are misleading. No one reads the footnotes on thesesclaims. Heck, no one writes the footnotes on these claims.(with the exception of the Wall Street Journal “Joe Biden Tells A Budget Whopper,” March 3, 2022, p. A20) that did the computations (except for the 2019 deficit) No one knows these claims except as claims that sound pretty good. If a claim is false and no one notices or explains why, is it still a lie? In the mysterious world of government accounting we are back to the great philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?”