Tuesday Edition: Trump's Debt

Plus: Independents. Homeownership. Ukraine aid.

1. Trump Ran Up More Debt Than Biden

Even when you put aside pandemic relief spending, Donald Trump more than doubled up on President Biden’s contributions to the national debt over a decade, according to a new analysis from a center-right deficit watchdog. (Axios)

A report from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

  • National debt comparison: Trump approved $8.4 trillion in new ten-year borrowing; Biden approved $4.3 trillion.

  • Excluding pandemic relief: Trump, $4.8 trillion; Biden, $2.2 trillion.

Where’d the money go?

  • Trump’s major actions include the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ($1.9 trillion) and the COVID-era CARES Act ($1.9 trillion).

  • Biden’s major actions include the pandemic relief-oriented American Rescue Plan ($2.1 trillion) and his 2022 and 2023 spending bills ($1.4 trillion).

Some important caveats from the CFR’s analysis:

  • 77% of Trump’s ten-year debt came from bipartisan legislation, while only 29% of Biden’s debt so far is bipartisan.

  • The rest of Biden’s debt stems from “partisan actions,” per the CFR.

  • Trump’s executive actions added less than $20 billion to the ten-year debt, compared to $1.2 trillion for Biden.

Bubba’s Two Cents

There are ways to spin this report to make it look better for Trump, but the reality is that despite his rhetoric, he just wasn’t that great on the debt issue. Dems are taking a victory lap in response to the CFR’s analysis, and it’s somewhat understandable considering how much Republicans harp on Biden increasing the debt while mostly ignoring Trump’s contributions. But the bigger issue is that, for two decades, both Republicans and Democrats have added trillions to the debt. No one should be celebrating this news.

2. Why Independents Matter

Will independents be key to the 2024 election, as Free Beacon founding editor Matt Continetti believes? (Washington Free Beacon)


There is a long running debate in the Beltway about how elections are won. Is it better to mobilize your base, or should you persuade the middle? Which cohort matters most: committed partisans or self-identified independents?

Continetti leans toward the latter, noting in a new essay that “the presidential candidate or political party that won independent voters has won the White House or the House of Representatives in 7 of the past 10 biannual elections.”

  • According to some political strategists’ estimates, the 2024 election will come down to just 6% of voters in six states.

  • This sliver of the electorate is made up of persuadable voters — in other words not “committed partisans” — in toss-up states.

  • More people than ever are ditching the Democratic and Republican labels, with independent identification tying an all-time high last year.

What do independents care about? Surveys consistently show independents rank kitchen table issues as their biggest concerns.

  • A PBS News/NPR/Marist poll released last week found independents’ top three issues are preserving democracy, inflation and immigration.

  • According to a YouGov survey from May, independents are most concerned about inflation, jobs and the economy, and healthcare.

  • Hunger and homelessness, inflation and healthcare topped the list of independents voter concerns, per a Gallup poll in March.

The state of the independent vote: While Trump’s generally been leading Biden with independents in most polls, there are signs his grip on these voters may be slipping.

3. Homeownership Is Becoming a “Pipe Dream”

Thanks to rising interest rates and low inventory, homeownership is becoming increasingly unattainable for many Americans. (Business Insider)

A new Harvard study: Only 6% of renters earn the $120,000 annual income needed to afford the monthly payment ($3,100 after taxes and insurance) for a median-priced home.

  • The median U.S. home price was 3.2 times the median household income in the 1990s, increasing to 4.1 in 2019 and 5.1 in 2022.

  • Households need to earn at least $100,000 to afford a median-priced home in 48% of metro areas, up from 11% in 2021.

  • Only 1.11 million homes were on the market in March 2024, down 34% from March 2019.

How do we fix it? President Biden and Donald Trump have pretty different ideas on how to make housing more affordable.

  • Biden’s touted his administration’s rental assistance programs, as well as federal funding for financing and housing development.

  • “The bottom line to lower housing costs for good is to build, build, build,” the president said at a campaign event in March.

  • Trump’s proposed opening up federal land for housing, and curbing regulations that make it harder to build.

4. GOP Voters Unmoved by Ukraine Aid

After the House approved $60 billion in aid for Ukraine this April, the “America First” GOP base vowed revenge. So far, they haven’t gotten it. (WaPo)

Despite threats to oust the 104 Republicans who voted for the aid, none of them lost their primaries.

  • Even an $800,000 ad campaign focused on Rep. Tom Cole’s support for Ukraine aid wasn’t enough to knock off the Oklahoma Republican in his primary race.

An ad run this year by Chuck Goodrich, a primary challenger to pro-Ukraine aid Rep. Victoria Spartz:

Victoria Spartz sends 40 billion of our tax dollars to Ukraine before the border wall is finished. The bills Spartz passed included U.S. tax dollars for Ukraine's pensions and even Ukrainian business bailouts. Why does Victoria Spartz put Ukraine first?

Screenshot/Go With Chuck Goodrich

Polling shows only a minority of GOP voters would be less likely to support a Republican candidate who endorsed Ukraine aid.

Bubba’s Two Cents

Let's skip the Ukraine aid debate for now. What's really interesting is the gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Conservative pundits and politicians make it seem like they're speaking for real, everyday Americans, but how often is this just a cover for them to talk about their pet obsessions? Putting food on the table, healthy kids, safe neighborhoods — that’s what “real Americans” care about.

5. Negativity in the U.S.A.

In a new Atlantic essay, journalist Derek Thompson argues we should see the global mental health crisis among young people as an issue mainly in English-speaking countries, particularly the U.S. (The Atlantic)


In the past generation, the English-speaking world, led by the U.S., has experimented with a novel approach to mental health that has expanded the ranks of the “worried well,” while social media has surrounded young people with reminders to obsess over their anxieties and traumas, just as U.S. news media have inundated audiences with negativity to capture their fleeting attention.

Some data points from Thompson’s piece:

  • Teen suicide rates and emergency-room visits for self-harm have increased in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past decade. Similar increases were seen in Australia and New Zealand but not in non-English-speaking high-income countries like France, Germany, and Italy.

  • By 2016, the U.S. had more than double the share of people using antidepressants compared to Spain, France, or Germany, and nine times as many as South Korea.

  • In Canada, life satisfaction for people under 30 in Quebec (where French is predominant) fell half as much as in Ontario (where English is predominant), per Gallup data.

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