Trump vows to pay down exploding debt

Trump vows to pay down exploding debt
© White House

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE on Wednesday said the U.S. would begin paying down the national debt, which has increased roughly $1.7 trillion since he took office.

Speaking at an event on workplace development that included multiple CEOs, Trump said that the nation has "a lot" of debt.

As a candidate, Trump promised to completely eliminate the debt over two terms in office. It is now approaching $21.7 trillion.

Budget watchers have harshly criticized Trump and Congress for borrowing money to pay for large tax cuts, which are projected to add $1.9 trillion to deficits over a decade, as well as large increases in defense and non-defense spending, which added roughly $150 billion in spending in 2018 and 2019.

The budget deficit increased 17 percent in the 2018 fiscal year, hitting $782 billion, and the White House projects it will surpass $1 trillion in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1.

Officials in the Trump administration have played down the tax-related increases to the deficit, arguing that healthy growth would outweigh the debt effects.

Most economists say that the economy would have to consistently grow at unprecedented levels for that to be true.

Last week, Trump said he would push for an additional 10 percent tax cut. The administration has not released a specific proposal, or details about how to pay for such a cut.

Trump has proposed deep cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, including areas such as education, health and foreign affairs.

Democrats have pounced on those suggestions, as well as calls from Congressional Republicans to tackle the debt by reducing spending on mandatory programs.

"Republicans in Congress are setting in motion their plan to destroy the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that seniors and families rely on, just months after they exploded the deficit by $2 trillion with their Tax Scam for the rich,” House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Al Green: 'We have the opportunity to punish' Trump with impeachment vote MORE (D-Calif.). said earlier this month.

Her comments followed suggestions by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) that those programs were the key to cutting deficits.

“The three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, that’s 70 percent of what we spend every year,” he said. “There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs.”

The debt, he added, was "not a Republican problem."