White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the long-term national debt, which recently surpassed $18 trillion, is a concern for President Barack Obama, but stressed that the administration has made progress on reducing the short-term deficit.
In a response to a question from TheBlaze Wednesday, Earnest explained the federal deficit is now 2.8 percent of the economy, which he said demonstrated “significant, even historic progress” by the administration.
“The president has been and continues to be mindful of the longer term challenges that remain when it comes to our deficit and debt,” Earnest told TheBlaze. “In the context of the president’s 2015 fiscal year budget, there is a roadmap for making important investments for accelerating economic growth and expanding economic opportunity for middle class families, strengthening security, all while improve the nation’s fiscal outlook.”
As a candidate for president in 2008, Sen. Barack Obama called the $9 trillion under then-President George W. Bush “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” When Obama came to office, the national debt was $10.6 trillion.
The Congressional Budget Office said earlier this year that on the debt is 74 percent of the gross domestic product, and is on the path to reach 106 percent of the GDP by 2039. The CBO said that 74 percent is the highest amount of debt held by the public since 1950. Debt was 39 percent of the GDP in 2008.
The national debt reached the milestone of $18 trillion on Friday, according to the Treasury Department. As TheBlaze previously reported, that was a jump of about $40 billion from two days earlier. The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t counted in the Treasury Department chart.
“The thing that has attracted so much attention from both critics of the administration and some deficit hawks in the last couple of years was the concerns shared by both Democrats and Republicans about the growth in the short term deficit,” Earnest told TheBlaze.
“We cut the deficit by two-thirds since the president took office,” he continued. “That’s the fastest sustained rate of deficit reduction since the end of World War II. We’ve made tremendous progress on this.”
The fiscal year 2009 deficit was $1.4 trillion. That came amid the economic downturn climbing significantly from the $458 billion deficit in fiscal year 2008. The fiscal year 2015 deficit is projected $564 billion, up from $483 billion in fiscal year 2014.
The national debt is how much the government has borrowed. The federal deficit is how much more the government is spending outpaces revenue.
“In the context of these debates, many advocates were talking about the need to lower our deficits to below 3 percent of GDP. I can tell you last year the deficit was 2.8 percent of GDP,” Earnest said. “That very ambitious goal that many deficit hawks did not believe could be achieved has been attained in a much quicker time period than was previously believed possible.”
When campaigning for president on July 3, 2008 in Fargo, N.D., Obama criticized the Bush debt.
“The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents – number 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back, $30,000 for every man, woman and child,” Obama said. “That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the $18 trillion national debt a “sad milestone” for America.
“By his own reasoning then, President Obama has reached a new level of irresponsibility,” Priebus said in a statement Tuesday. “He has the worst record of any president when it comes to putting America deeper in debt. Spending more money than we have is immoral; it hurts future generations who will be left to pay off the bills.”