President Donald Trump has asserted that his administration will work to make the federal government more efficient.
On Feb. 22, Trump held a lunch meeting with two of his key Cabinet members of the economy, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney. The president told reporters that they would work to reform the U.S. budget.
"Unfortunately, the budget we're essentially inheriting is a mess," Trump said, according to Reuters. "The finances of our country are a mess."
The president noted that the U.S. national debt had doubled since 2008, concluding "We must do a lot more with less."
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Trump's comment recalled criticism of the Obama Administration from Vice President Mike Pence made in August 2016.
"Under this administration, the debt has nearly doubled," Pence said during a town hall meeting in Arizona.
The fact-checking website PolitiFact rated that statement as mostly true but noted some caveats, citing that the debt rose largely because of the economic crash of 2008.
When former President Barack Obama assumed office in January 2009, the federal debt totaled $10.63 trillion; by August 2016, it had risen to $19.4 trillion, which, while not quite double, comes close to verifying the assertions made by Trump and Pence.
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Law professor Neil Buchanan of George Washington University noted that federal spending during the Obama administration had largely been out of necessity to counter the economic recession.
"Tax revenues were plummeting because incomes were falling, while spending had to go up ... Had we tried to balance the budget during that time, it would have accelerated the downturn, and there could have been a depression," Buchanan said.
On Feb. 13, Mulvaney was confirmed as Treasury Secretary by a Senate vote of 53 to 47. A former Wall Street banker and film financier, Mnuchin has pledged to like to promote economic growth through rolling back financial regulations and reforming the tax code.
The Senate then confirmed Mulvaney on Feb. 16 to head the Office of Management and Budget by a narrow margin of 51 to 49. Mulvaney has the reputation of a deficit hawk, having previously advocated for reforming entitlement programs including Medicare and Social Security while serving in Congress, The New York Times reports.
Trump has repeatedly pledged that his administration will not make changes to Medicare or Social Security.
Trump and his two Cabinet members met to discuss their developing budget and tax plans, which the administration has pledged will be unveiled soon.
The tax plan touted by Trump on during his campaign would have reduced corporate taxes by 15-35 percent while reducing income tax brackets. In September 2016, the conservative Tax Foundation projected that that tax plan would at best increase the federal deficit by $10 trillion over a decade, CNBC reports.