According to Joe Hoft at thegatewaypundit.com:

In First 2 Months in Office – Trump Reduces Debt by $100 Billion – Obama Increased Debt by $400 Billion – Half a Trillion Dollar Difference!

Is this true?


3 Answers 3


The U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service publishes data including recently

Date     Debt Held by the Public  Intragovernmental Holdings  Total Public Debt Outstanding
01/20/2017  14,403,704,176,388.94   5,543,600,378,823.55    19,947,304,555,212.49
03/16/2017  14,363,679,289,379.40   5,482,366,270,032.41    19,846,045,559,411.81

which suggests a fall in "Debt Held by the Public" of about $40 billion and "Total Public Debt Outstanding" of about $100 billion

The comparable figures 8 years earlier were

Date     Debt Held by the Public  Intragovernmental Holdings  Total Public Debt Outstanding
01/20/2009  6,307,310,739,681.66    4,319,566,309,231.42    10,626,877,048,913.08
03/20/2009  6,746,757,787,199.50    4,294,049,240,358.60    11,040,807,027,558.10

which suggests an increase in "Debt Held by the Public" of almost $440 billion and "Total Public Debt Outstanding" of almost $415 billion in those two months

The position is slightly confused by different parts of Government holding public debt (think Social Security etc.) leading to a difference between "Debt Held by the Public" and "Total Debt" which might make the point slightly arguable, and in any case the debt is not really controlled by the president (Congress decides taxes and spending) and is barely even influenced by an incoming president, but the numbers in the claim are not unreasonable

  • 44
    It may also be worth noting that the number may be cherry-picked. You could just as easily look at 02/28/2017 and say "President Trump increased the national debt by 12 billion in the first 39 days of his presidency!" (But of course that would be equally ridiculous. We don't really look at national debt on this timescale, because changes from month to month are often just noise.)
    – ff524
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 2:51
  • 12
    This doesn't seem to address the question which explicitly applies attribution to Trump an Obama. I can just as easily claim that my new exercise routine has resulted in a decrease in the national debt using these figures.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 21:44
  • 1
    I guess but you say it's 'slightly confused'. There is no confusion. There's no plausible explanation that can attribute the decrease to Trump. I don't exactly recall when all the bailout stuff happened so you that's potentially a little more nuanced but there's no question that it's completely baloney to say Trump reduced the national debt in his first 2 months.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 16:31
  • 3
    From reading the day-to-day fluctuations of the number from the past two months, it seems that the number is barely stable for the first three significant digits. Claims made based on the fourth significant digit are meaningless. If my speed fluctuates between 35.6 and 35.8 miles per hour, it hardly makes sense to say that 0.04 MPH faster between two given days indicates any kind of trend or kept improvement in speed.
    – Edwin Buck
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 4:25
  • 3
    It is disingenuous not to mention all the reasons why this isn't a useful measure. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 16:04

No. While the title of this question no longer aligns with content of the question, the claim made by Joe Hoft that Trump reduced the national debt by $100 Billion is patently false. The claim that Obama increased the debt is harder to qualify.


As shown in this timeline of the financial crisis, "after promises by the incoming administration about how it would spend the money, the Senate voted to allow access to the remaining $350 billion" of the 700 billion approved bailout. That and other related expenditures fall within the first two months of Obama's presidency. It's possible to make the argument that this action directly increased the national debt. It would be a major omission, however, to not note that this was a continuation of the previous administration's attempt to prevent the world economy from collapsing.


Politfact describes a previous article by the same author and a much weaker claim Tweeted by Trump himself as "highly misleading"

The numbers check out. And in fact, the total public debt has dropped another $22 billion since the Gateway Pundit article published ...


"Considering that Trump hasn’t enacted any fiscal legislation, it’s a bit of a stretch for him to take credit for any changes in debt levels," Dan Mitchell, a libertarian economist and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told us.


"I wonder what he thinks he did to bring this about," said Harvard University government professor Jeffrey Frankel.


Added Neil Buchanan, a George Washington University law professor and author of The Debt Ceiling Disasters: "No one who knows anything about budgeting would take a 30-day change to have any meaning at all. There is no credit to take, because it's like noticing that rainfall numbers from one month to the next are not exactly the same or that attendance at baseball games is not a constant number."

Ultimately the assessment concludes:

This factoid is a gross misrepresentation of the state of the debt and the role the new president had in shaping the figure.

This article addresses Trump's tweet which followed a similar article from Jim Hoft made about the first-month figures. The situation has not changed. There have not been any actions by the Trump administration that can be plausibly linked to changes in the national debt level.

Here's a graph of the US debt since the beginning of December 2016:

enter image description here

UPDATE: Now that there's been some time for Trump to have an effect on the nation debt, here's the total cumulative percentage change since the beginning of 2017:

enter image description here

Total debt increase from the end of Jan 27 2017 to Jan 23 2019: A little over 2 trillion dollars or about a trillion dollars a year.

  • 1
    So how does the debt drop by $100 billion? Is that the government taking some spare cash and repaying some bonds that ended in February or March 2017? And in three months they are going to issue new bonds for $100 billion to fill their bank account back up?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 21:36
  • 6
    In the Politifact article I reference in the answer, there's this quote: "Donald Marron, Director of Economic Policy Initiatives at the Urban Institute, speculated that the drop in debt may be because President Barack Obama’s administration left Trump with cash on hand to run the government. So the government's need to borrow hasn't been high recently." There are lots of inflows and outflows. For example companies that took money during the bailouts have paid it back. This plateau is an aberration but it started before Trump took office.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 21:45

No it is not true, if we are assessing the attribution for what Trump and Obama did with budgets in their first months in office.

If the national debt went down by $100B in Trump's first two months, then Obama is responsible for that, if we give the president the credit or blame. When Trump took office they were operating under the 2017 fiscal year, which started on October 1, 2016, while Obama was in office, and ended on September 30, 2017. The US government was operating under the budget and spending that was set under the previous administration.

By the same token, two month into the Obama administration, they were operating under the final Bush budget year cycle.

So even if the raw deficit or debt numbers were accurate, the attribution is completely wrong, so the statement is false, regardless of whether the numbers are confirmed or refuted.

Even with Obama's budget not being passed, and if Trump wanted legislation passed allowing him to alter spending in that current fiscal year, none of that had happened within the first two months of the administration, so operating under "continuing resolutions" would still be working under the previous administration's fiscal template.

The 2017 United States federal budget is the United States federal budget for fiscal year 2017, which lasted from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017. President Barack Obama submitted a budget proposal to the 114th Congress on February 9, 2016. The 2017 fiscal year overlaps the end of the Obama administration and the beginning of the Trump administration.

The government was initially funded through a series of three temporary continuing resolutions. Funding for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs was enacted on September 29, 2016 as part of the Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act. The remaining funding was passed as an omnibus spending bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, enacted on May 5, 2017.

Wikipedia: 2017 United States Federal Budget

The United States federal budget for fiscal year 2009 began as a spending request submitted by President George W. Bush to the 110th Congress. The final resolution written and submitted by the 110th Congress to be forwarded to the President was approved by the House on June 5, 2008.[5]

The government was initially funded through three temporary continuing resolutions. Final funding for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Veterans Affairs was enacted on September 30, 2008 as part of the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009, while the remaining departments and agencies were funded as part of an omnibus spending bill, the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, on March 10, 2009

Wikipedia: 2009 United States Federal Budget

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