Trump on Growing Debt from CCP Virus Response: ‘Do We Have a Choice?’

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
April 23, 2020Updated: April 23, 2020

President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that the United States didn’t have a choice in spending trillions of dollars in federal funds in response to the CCP virus pandemic, as concerns mount over the growing national debt and damage to the economy.

The president said that while the growing national debt was of concern, the United States has to “fix this problem,” referring to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, which has been attributed to at least 840,000 cases and 46,688 deaths in the United States, according to a tracking map from Johns Hopkins University.

“Do we have a choice? We were attacked,” Trump said during the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Wednesday. “This wasn’t the flu, by the way, they like to say the flu. Nobody has ever seen anything like this.”

The president’s remarks come after the Senate on Tuesday negotiated a $484 billion CCP virus relief package, which includes aid for small businesses, hospitals, and funds for increased CCP virus testing. The nearly half-trillion-dollar package comes shortly after Congress passed a $2 trillion rescue package to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic.

A record 22 million Americans have filed claims for unemployment benefits over the past month, wiping out almost all the job gains since the 2009 recession.

Trump said Wednesday that pouring money into fighting the CCP virus is a move necessary to be able to reopen the economy.

“We had the greatest economy in the history of the world…and we had to close it. Now we’re going to open it again,” the president said. “We’re going to be just as strong or stronger. But you have to spend some money to get it back open.”

According to projections by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CFRB), exploding federal spending prompted by the U.S. government’s response to the CCP virus pandemic will force the annual deficit to at least $3.8 trillion this year.

“Our latest projections find that under current law, budget deficits will total more than $3.8 trillion, 18.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), this year and $2.1 trillion (9.7 percent of GDP) in 2021,” the CFRB said in a statement last week.

“We project debt held by the public will exceed the size of the economy by the end of Fiscal Year 2020 and eclipse the prior record set after World War II by 2023,” the group stated.

The national debt is currently $24.3 trillion, according to the U.S. National Debt Clock, and the currently projected value of the economy is $22.3 trillion. The debt figure doesn’t include unfunded future benefits the government is liable for under the Social Security ($37.6 trillion) and Medicare ($52.7 trillion) entitlement programs.

The group cautioned, however, that the actual numbers are likely to be worse at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30 “since they assume no further legislation is enacted to address the crisis and that policymakers stick to current law when it comes to other tax and spending policies.”

In addition, the group said its projections “also assume the economy experiences a strong recovery in 2021 and fully returns to its pre-crisis trajectory by 2025.

“Assuming a slower and weaker recovery (but no changes in law), we estimate debt would grow to 117 percent of GDP by 2025,” it said.

Previously, the highest federal deficit as a percentage of GDP came in 1943 during World War II when it reached 29.6 percent, according to the CFRB.

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he believes that the United States economy will be back “stronger than ever,” noting that he feels more optimistic than he did “two or three days ago.”

“We’re going to be within two weeks at a level nobody has ever even seen before,” the president said. “We’re going to be bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”

Mark Tapscott contributed to this report.