President Trump’s Saturday morning tweet on the national debt left many budget watchers scratching their heads about its dubious factoid and irrelevant comparison.
Here’s what Trump said:
“The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.”
The facts are accurate but meaningless.
Trump correctly claims that the debt went down in his first month as president. There are, however, two problems with this claim. First, the time frame is totally arbitrary. The debt number can fluctuate widely on a day-to-day basis. For example, from January 10 to January 12 this year the debt fell by $22 billion. On the other hand, from January 13 to January 18 it rose by $21 billion.
As Keith Hennessey, former director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush, noted, if Trump had “ended his timeframe one day earlier this tweet would have been invalid and debt would have increased (by just $1 B) in ‘the first month.’ ”
Beyond that is the fact that Trump has not done anything yet that would have an effect on the debt. The numbers he cites are not indicative of any...