Jack Lew, 2011: Obama's Budget Will Pay Down National Debt

On February 13, 2011, President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew went on CNN and claimed that Mr. Obama’s budget will pay down the national debt.

The plan, Lew said, “will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.”  

Mr. Lew, of all people, should have known. After all, he was, at the time, the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

But as this copy of the OMB’s own table makes clear, Mr. Lew’s televised promise to the American people was a sign of either deception or incompetence.

The document, provided by Republican Senate budget committee staffers, clearly shows that OMB’s own figures never projected a decline in the federal debt. In fact, they show the gross federal debt rising from $15.4 trillion in 2011 when Mr. Lew made his comment all the way up to $26.3 trillion in 2021. 

Indeed, Mr. Lew has made other statements that make one question his veracity or competence. 

In at least two televised appearances, Mr. Lew blamed Mr. Obama’s inability to pass a budget in the Senate on the need for a supermajority of 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. There’s just one problem with that claim: budgets are considered “privileged” and therefore do not require a filibuster-proof 60 votes to be passed. A simple majority is all that’s needed.

As of today, it’s been 1,352 days since Washington has passed a budget.


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