Sep 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Mnuchin: "I thought the debt was very manageable" pre-COVID

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told "Fox News Sunday" that he thought the national debt, which reached a record $23 trillion at the end of 2019, was "very manageable" prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: President Trump promised during the 2016 campaign to reduce the national debt and eliminate it entirely within eight years. Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the debt will exceed 100% of GDP in 2021 and rise to 107% in 2023 — the highest in U.S. history.

  • Even prior to the economic disruptions and subsequent government spending causes by the pandemic, the budget deficit jumped 26% to nearly $1 trillion in late 2019, increasing for the fourth year in a row, the Washington Post reports.
  • The deficit had increased nearly 50% during the pre-pandemic Trump presidency.

What they're saying: "We were having extraordinary growth, we were creating growth that would pay down the debt over time. Unfortunately, this China virus has cost us trillions of dollars and as I've said before, this is like a war. In a war, you've got to spend whatever you need to spend," Mnuchin said.

  • "That's the reason why we've spent $3 trillion. We'd spend another $1 trillion. The speaker just wants to spend unlimited amounts of money."
  • "I think the former vice president, if he were elected, would have socialist economic policies that would take the debt out of control. But there's no question in a second term, once the economy is back, we will focus on this issue."

Go deeper: Where Trump stands on economic promises

Go deeper