Keeping Track of President Biden’s Spending
Keeping track of President Biden’s spending is a full-time job.
Fortunately, Jonathan Bydlak has been on the job. He’s the director of both the governance program and the fiscal and budget policy project at the R Street Institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank. In those roles, he’s created the Spending Tracker, a tool that adds up all the new spending Congress votes on and connects those dollars to how each member of Congress voted on it.
See what I mean about a full-time job! Getting back to President Biden’s spending, Bydlak has tallied up some of the biggest spending numbers ever connected to a single politician. Writing at Reason, he shares his results:
Like Trump, Biden has overseen significant pandemic-related relief, but he also has ramped up spending on priorities well beyond COVID-19. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed in March 2021, cost $1.8 trillion, more than half of the new spending enacted during Biden’s time in office.
But it’s the other expensive legislation Biden has signed that pushed him past Trump. The much-vaunted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act spent another $765 billion, though the infrastructure expenditures will occur over the course of the next five years. The Jon Stewart-promoted Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act contributed another $278 billion, while the recently passed CHIPS Act “chipped” in $255 billion more. And though congressional Democrats failed to pass Biden’s Build Back Better legislation earlier this year, its eventual successor, the Inflation Reduction Act, is still estimated by the CBO to add another $51 billion to the federal ledger.
Of course, these new laws all represent spending carried out by Biden in consort with the Democratic-controlled Congress. But on top of everything Congress is doing, the president has taken numerous, expensive executive actions that make his impact on the federal budget even greater than official numbers indicate.
In response to a request from House Republicans, the CBOestimated in June that a number of the president’s executive actions total another $532 billion, including interest expenses. The list of actions reviewed by the CBO include $300 billion for an expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $34 billion for the extension of various healthcare subsidies, and $85 billion for pauses in student loan repayment.
What’s more, on the topic of student loans, Biden has since taken even greater actions. One estimate puts his most recent pause at another $40 billion, while the cost of fuller loan forgiveness would be more than $400 billion. Taken together, these add more than another $1 trillion in spending to Biden’s legislative impact, and help explain how the administration racked up a whopping $4.8 trillion in new borrowing in just the last two years.
A national debt that grows by more than a trillion dollars a year doesn’t happen by accident. It’s also not an accident the U.S. national debt has been growing at twice that rate. No wonder Bydlak describes President Biden’s spending record as “unprecedented”!