Speaking before a group of Democratic supporters on Thursday night, President Barack Obama took a victory lap of sorts when he touched on the pace of the economic recovery.
“There is no economic metric by which we are not better off than when I took office,” Obama asserted. “And that is because of the extraordinary will and dedication of the American people, but also because all of you have done a terrific job. And I’m proud of you for that.”
During Friday’s press briefing, CBS News reporter Mark Knoller probed White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest about the president’s claim and asked if Obama included the national debt in his list of positive metrics.
Pockets of muted laughter from the press corps could be heard as Earnest responded. “What the president has noted is that when you evaluate the deficit, and the deficit is actually fallen by two-thirds since he’s taken office,” Earnest evaded, “and the way that we measure that is actually the way that economists measure that.”
“They don’t look at just the sum total,” Earnest noted. Of course, because “sum totals” are often so frustratingly grim. “What they do is they evaluate the deficit as the percentage of the economy.”
Knoller , observing that his question has not yet been answered, again asked about the national debt. “Which has gone up 70 percent on [Obama’s] watch” the CBS reporter observed.
While he pondered how to respond to this damning line of questioning, Earnest conceded that he had no way of massaging the national debt by evaluating it as a relative percentage of some other index more favorable to the administration. Instead, he tried to again evade Knoller’s question by making note of Obama’s proposals to attempt to lower the debt – including and apparently limited to rising taxes.
“Might you concede that the debt is not a metric that shows we are better off?” Knoller asked for a third and final time.
“I think you would concede, as I would, that the raw math shows that the debt had increased,” Earnest finally answered.
While the president’s supporters were trumpeting a Congressional Budget Office report released this week which showed that the deficit has indeed been falling – inexplicably, if you were to believe the left, amid two of the least productive Congresses in living memory – that same report indicated that the debt is increasing rather rapidly.
When the president took office, Obama inherited $10.6 trillion national debt. Today, it stands at $18.1 trillion. “Through 2018, the budget deficit will remain at around $500 to $600 billion a year, or about 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States,” read a report via The Blaze. “After 2018, however, the budget deficit will rise past 3 percent of GDP, and then hit 4 percent of GDP by 2025.”
According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s fiscal confidence index, while Americans are increasingly satisfied with the pace of the recovery, they remain deeply troubled by the increasing debt.
“A majority of respondents — 83 percent — agreed in the survey that the nation’s national debt is an issue that President Obama and Congress should be spending more time addressing, including 64 percent who say that lawmakers should spend ‘a lot’ more time on the issue,” The Hill reported last August. “This concern over the nation’s $17.6 trillion debt spans party lines, with 92 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats agreeing that Washington needs to focus more on the issue.”
The fact that the debt has increased by $500,000,000,000 (five hundred billion) in the space of just five months justifies the public’s concerns. Good for Mark Knoller for acknowledging them, and for forcing the administration to concede that Americans are, in fact, not better off in at least one deeply troubling way.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the CBS News reporter Mark Knoller as Mark Knowler.