President Joe Biden is wrong to take credit for reducing the federal deficit, CNN fact checker Daniel Dale says.
"Let me remind you again: I reduced the federal deficit," Biden said in a speech last week. "All the talk about the deficit from my Republican friends, I love it. I've reduced it $350 billion in my first year in office. And we're on track to reduce it, by the end of September, by another 1 trillion, 500 billion dollars — the largest drop ever."
Dale said in an appearance on CNN's New Day and in an article on CNN.com that while the deficit — the shortfall between the amount of money the federal government takes in and what it spends annually — did decrease by the amount the president cites, Biden can hardly take credit for it. The projection for September is just that — a projection.
In fact, Dale says, the deficit would have been reduced even more had Biden done nothing at all, and left Trump's policies in place, according to figures from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
"The actions of the administration and Congress have undoubtedly resulted in higher deficits, not smaller ones," Dan White, senior director at Moody's Analytics, told Dale in an email. Biden has often cited Moody's analysis in his speeches.
"It is encouraging that the administration has proposed some initiatives to bring down the deficit, but so far none of those initiatives has been seriously considered," White added.
Congress passes budgets, not the president, though presidents typically submit a budget proposal to Congress for consideration. Congress rarely uses it, and Dale notes that either way, Congress and the chief executive share the blame or the credit for federal deficits.
The $2.8 trillion deficit in fiscal 2021, when Biden was in office for more than eight months, was $360 billion lower than the $3.1 trillion deficit of fiscal 2020, Trump's last full year in office. Dale called that "certainly substantial," but added that the CBO, "had estimated at the beginning of Biden's tenure that the fiscal 2021 deficit would be a decline of more than $870 billion if the Biden administration did not implement new policy."
Biden's White House implemented new policy, "notably including a massive pandemic relief package," Dale said.
Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget told Dale that Biden's claims are "'almost bizarro world,' a reversal of reality. The deficit would have fallen by much more 'had President Biden come to office and not done anything.'"
Some of Biden's claims are accurate, Dale said, such as when the president said the deficit "went up every year under my predecessor, before the pandemic and during the pandemic."
"That part is true," Dale writes. "Trump's tax cuts and other policies led to a sharp increase in the deficit even before Covid-19."
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