President Biden wrongly claimed Tuesday that he slashed the national debt by $1.7 trillion — despite increasing it by about $3.84 trillion over his first two years in office.
The 80-year-old president made the error — apparently as a result of confusing the terms “debt” and “deficit” — while bashing House Republicans as irresponsible for demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling later this year.
“You know you hear ads with the big-spending Joe Biden?” Biden said during a speech in Virginia Beach, Va. “In two years, I reduced the debt $1.7 billion — $1.7 billion.
“It’s the largest deficit reduction in American history.”
Biden also said he intends to propose tax increases on higher earners when he releases his annual budget proposal on March 9, though that plan stands no chance of passing the Republican-held House.
“I want to make it clear, I’m going to raise some taxes,” the president said.
“If any of you are billionaires out there, you’re going to stop paying at 3%, not a joke.”
The term “federal deficit” refers to the annual amount of government spending that is unfunded while the national debt — currently clocking in at more than $31.58 trillion — is the amount owed to holders of securities like Treasury bonds.
Biden previously mixed up the terms “debt” and “deficit” in December while touting the nation’s financial health under his stewardship — while the president incorrectly claimed earlier this month that the worst inflation since the early 1980s was “already there” when he took office.
Republicans say massive spending legislation passed during Biden’s first two years in office caused high inflation and unnecessary debt and are seeking to claw back unused COVID-19 stimulus funds and curb discretionary spending.
“The last administration increased the federal debt by 25% — the 200-year debt in four years … and folks, how did Congress respond? Well, quite frankly, they did the only responsible thing. They paid the debt,” Biden also said Tuesday.
“They voted three times to keep paying Americans bills, to pay the debt without preconditions, without a crisis,” he added.
“If they paid the American debt then, why in God’s name are they threatening not to pay it now?”
The current national debt is up from $27.75 trillion when Biden took office, according to the Congressional Research Service — and $19.95 trillion in 2017 when former President Donald Trump took office.
The federal deficit in the fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30, was the fourth-highest in history at $1.38 trillion, according to the Treasury Department.
Biden regularly notes that the national deficit is getting smaller, but fact-checkers have pointed out that much of the reduction is due to the expiration of bipartisan COVID-19 pandemic relief programs rather than Biden’s own actions.
The US deficit hit an all-time high of $3.13 trillion in fiscal 2020 — as bipartisan majorities in Congress voted for programs that offset widespread joblessness early in the pandemic — before declining to $2.77 trillion in fiscal 2021.
The White House says Biden won’t negotiate to raise the debt ceiling but hasn’t ruled out spending cuts passing in tandem with the credit expansion expected to be approved later this year.