In an interview with the legendary Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa published Saturday Donald Trump made the fantastical claim that he as President Trump would wipe out all $19 trillion of US national debt in just eight years.
After stating that the US was sitting on a massive bubble about to pop, he then made the ambitious claim that he could wipe out $19 trillion dollars of debt “over a period of eight years.” Here’s a transcript from the Post:
Donald Trump: “We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt.”
Bob Woodward: “How long would that take?”
Trump: “I think I could do it fairly quickly, because of the fact the numbers…”
Woodward: “What’s fairly quickly?”
Trump: “Well, I would say over a period of eight years. And I’ll tell you why.”
Woodward: “Would you ever be open to tax increases as part of that, to solve the problem?”
Trump: “I don’t think I’ll need to. The power is trade. Our deals are so bad.”
Woodward: “That would be $2 trillion a year.”
Trump: “No, but I’m renegotiating all of our deals, Bob. The big trade deals that we’re doing so badly on. With China, $505 billion this year in trade. We’re losing with everybody.”
Most economists and anyone who understands basic arithmetic would say this is a ridiculous fantasy. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
If the national debt stopped right now it would be around $19,274,000,000,000. Let’s call it $19 trillion. $19 trillion divided by 8 years is $2.375 trillion dollars per year that the US would have to pay back in order to get rid of the debt. Last year the national budget was $3.8 trillion dollars. To pay off the national debt in 8 years the US would have to repay 62% of the entire national budget each year for all 8 years. The absurdity of this statement should be self evident. These numbers also do not take into account that the US is running at a deficit and before he could begin paying it off that Trump would have to balance the budget.
Trump claimed that he would raise that nearly two thirds of the national budget, more than $2 trillion, by “renegotiating trade deals.” He offered no specifics on how he would do this. Trump was wrong on the numbers about our trade deficit with China, it’s $366 billion. Our entire trade deficit with the world is $531 billion. The US would only see a tiny fraction of that as income.