Daniels says presidential candidates should get real about national debt

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Mitch Daniels knows a thing or two about cost-cutting—he used to be known as "The Blade” when he was President George W. Bush’s top budget adviser.

But Daniels is calling out Donald Trump on the billionaire’s recent claim that if he were elected president, he could slash $19 trillion in national debt in eight years.

“That’s ridiculous,” Daniels, now president of Purdue University, said at a recent event hosted by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Daniels told IBJ that he’s bummed that the national debt isn’t being discussed in a meaningful way on the campaign trail.

“I’m disappointed that so far, at least, the overriding questions of our debt and the autopilot programs that are driving it, that candidates on both sides have been able to avoid these huge questions which are so important to the young people of this country,” Daniels said.

“We’re going to have a huge amount of burden placed on their futures,” he said. “We ought to start doing something about it.”

Analyst Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog had an interesting post in mid-January about why politicians have stopped talking about the federal debt and budget deficits. In short, he sums up, "The economy is strengthening, and it doesn’t pay to be a politician calling for unpopular policies—either higher taxes or lower spending, depending on your party preference."

Daniels said he’s holding out hope that the press will force the topic. Maybe Trump’s recent claim finally will.

“I think there’s time,” Daniels said. “So we can hope.”

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