Spending Other People’s Money: Trump vs Biden

By Cruz Marquis

Over the past year, President Biden has already spent more than any other president in a given year. How does his predecessor line up with this fiscal irresponsibility?

Back in August 2020, when the state was trying and failing to apply central planning to the covid pandemic, libertarians asked: “which presidential candidate will bankrupt America first?” They had good reason to wonder.

An early Trump budget increase was giving a whopping $738 billion to the Pentagon, a number which is not nearly equaled by any other superpowers. Total nuclear weapons aside, China is the nearest military competitor to the US and a likely rival as tensions rachet up in East Asia. This year, China spent 1.450 trillion-yuan, equivalent to $230 billion USD, –half a trillion less than what the US spends annually.

Hopefully the Chinese are getting about as much bang for their buck as the US is, which is to say, very little. Last month, the Pentagon failed its fifth audit miserably, unable to account for 61% of its assets. The scope of the incompetence defies imagination: across $3.5 trillion in assets, and $3.7 trillion in liabilities, trillions of dollars cannot be accounted for. Our of 27 agencies, the “majority” had lost assets. As I said on the latest episode of Tusk, the podcast I cohost, it must be very difficult to lose track of that much but they did. Perhaps the Pentagon should not become more engorged with other people’s money until they can track where their money goes.

John Stossel pointed out Trump stayed in the mode of his predecessors by shelling out for special (politically connected) interests: “He gave $16 billion to farmers and ranchers, $1.6 billion more to NASA and, despite government’s horrible track record at “picking winners,” he tried loaning $765 million to Kodak Pharmaceuticals.”

Also like his predecessors, Trump spent money on meaningless boondoggles too, $55 billion worth in 2020 alone according to the office of Senator Rand Paul. To put that number in perspective, it could have been put to good uses like buying every American a new 40-inch flatscreen TV, or even build a road stretching the circumference of the earth 18 times. Meaningless boondoggle may sound harsh at first but what else does one say about spending money on: Trying to reduce hookah smoking among middle eastern youth, trying to invent a government “smart toilet,” hosing art classes for Kenyans, combating truancy in the Philippines, and of course, running lizards on treadmills (my personal favorite).

Where Trump really went wrong was with federal covid spending, which totaled $6.2 trillion. Up until 2020, the Trump administration at least had a veneer of fiscal responsibility and there were real economic gains, but all of that went out the window with the pandemic. At one point, he even tweeted about stimulus spending, the sine qua non of big government, “Go big or go home!”

Where can a man get fiscal responsibility anywhere?

Certainly not Trump’s successor. President Biden has officially surpassed Trump’s then record for government spending in a calendar year. As of late November, the federal government spent $3.37 trillion, a number which has no precedent. During the tumultuous final year of the Trump presidency, government spending reached a new high of $3.28 trillion, which temporarily made him the biggest spender in US history in a year. If the 2020 election had not intervened, the Trump administration was on track to outspend Obama by far. So much for fiscal restraint.

Military waste under Biden is worse than it was under Trump. His proposed fiscal year 2023 military budget was $813 billion, which is not exactly an improvement.

Biden also made several hundred-billion-dollar pieces of legislation seem routine, like it’s nothing to bat an eye over. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act spent $765 billion, the Jon Stewart-promoted Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act cost $278 billion, the CHIPS Act cost $255 billion, the American Rescue Plan Act cost $765 billion. Biden’s executive orders cost over a half trillion dollars more. Something is severely wrong when legislation with a price tag denominated in the hundreds of billions raises no eyebrows.

Like all recent presidents, Brandon also presides over spending on absurd things. Rand Paul’s office calculated the federal government flat out wasted $52.5 billion in 2021, not noticeably different from Trump administration waste. Some highlights are as follows: telling Vietnamese people to stop burning their trash, teaching pigeons to gamble with slot machines, student covid relief to non-students, “throwing swanky parties for congress”, spending federal covid money on public art displays, injecting eels with estradiol to fatten them for human consumption, among other things.  

Weighting the two presidents, there is not a great amount of light between them, their budgetary policies are one and the same on the whole. That being said, the Biden regime has already spent more in one calendar year (a year that has not yet ended) than any other president in our history, Trump included. At this rate, Biden will likely spend more in total than any president making him a slightly worse case than Trump overall.

Fiscal responsibility, wherefore art thou fiscal responsibility!

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One response to “Spending Other People’s Money: Trump vs Biden”

  1. […] The Great Recession, which blindsided mainstream Washington yet was entirely foreseeable from the Rothbardian angle, further brought banking under the control of the state and served as a launchpad for the Barack Obama spending bonanza. Since Donald Trump had a dubious commitment to market rights, it should not have been surprising that he spent even faster than his predecessor, and President Joe Biden proceeded to spend more than Trump. […]


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