Biden’s Truth Deficit Emerges Again With New False Claims About Debt Reduction

‘Facts,’ in the words of President John Adams, ‘are stubborn things.’

AP/J. Scott Applewhite
President Biden speaking about deficit reduction at the White House, October 21, 2022. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

President Biden can’t resist trotting out folksy, false stories on the campaign trail. While such flights of fabulism exasperate allies and outrage foes, it’s only the president’s duplicity about the national debt that poses a clear and present danger to America’s future.

In President John Quincy Adams’ argument to the Supreme Court in the Amistad case, the former president cited a nation in Gulliver’s novels who “had a very cool way of using language in reference to deeds that are not laudable.”

To “characterize a declaration as absolutely contrary to truth,” these beings would say a person “said the thing that is not” rather than use harsher terms; so, with respect to the office Mr. Biden holds, we can note on fiscal matters that he, too, often says the thing that is not. 

“In my first two years in office,” Mr. Biden told a crowd at Milwaukee on Tuesday, “even with all we’ve done,” meaning spending, “I’m the first one to cut the federal debt by one trillion, 700 billion dollars — one trillion, seven hundred billion dollars cut.”

On Wednesday, the president made a similar boast, this time with a clever sleight of hand. “We actually cut the federal debt — deficit — by $1.7 trillion. You hear me? The first two years, we cut the debt by $1.7 trillion.”

These claims are so at odds with reality that CNN debunked them in a fact-check last week and the Washington Post awarded Mr. Biden a “bottomless Pinocchio” when he made the same remark to a conference of North America’s Building Trades Unions in April.

Mr. Biden has a stubborn habit of conflating the deficit — red ink in each year’s budget — and the national debt, which is cumulative, growing as each dollar spent without revenue to pay for it gets added to America’s total credit card balance.

In February’s speech, Mr. Biden said the thing that is not on this distinction. “This is not the debt this year or last year,” he told the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 26. “We cut the debt by $1.7 trillion the last two years.”

As I wrote in the Sun at the time, “By conflating the annual budget deficits from the final year of the pandemic with the national debt,” Mr. Biden was the equivalent of a man who blows $60,000 in Vegas one year, $50,000 the next, and counts it as saving ten grand.

“Amid a bipartisan chorus demanding that the Republican congressman from New York, George Santos, be punished for lying about his record,” I wrote, “why the silence on Mr. Biden misleading citizens about the nation’s financial health?”

The verb “Santosing” may lack the literary flair of Adams, known as “Old Man Eloquent,” but as the head of the executive branch, Mr. Biden, can do far more damage than a freshman in Congress by using what I called “verbal origami” to fold reality.

The national debt was $27.8 trillion when Mr. Biden took office and is now $32.7 trillion and counting, an increase of almost $6 trillion. “Facts,” as the first President Adams said, “are stubborn things,” and dollar figures are more stubborn still.

Proving the point, Mr. Biden is anticipating that America will again need to raise the debt ceiling in 2025 and is assembling a team to examine options including removing the cap on spending altogether.

That move would eliminate the borrowing limit on the national credit card, and while this would avoid the annual kabuki of negotiations with Congress that always end with a hike of the ceiling, it would remove one of the last restraints on our addiction to inflationary spending.

As with any addiction, recovery begins by admitting that one has a problem, but with deficit hawks in Congress an endangered species — and states making noise about defaulting on their debts — Americans look to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue for fiscal sanity.

Mr. Biden’s $1.7 trillion boast shows an awareness that Americans want to shrink the national debt hanging over their heads, threatening to crush their prosperity. There are no painless solutions, but the first step is for the president to stop saying the thing that is not.

The New York Sun

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