Here's how the secretary of treasury feels about national debt

Steven Mnuchin says US economy is strong

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – According to U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, the national debt is at a comfortable level -- at least for now.

Mnuchin sat down Friday with News 6's Matt Austin for an exclusive interview at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The two discussed space innovation, tax cuts, trade deals and more after Mnuchin delivered a keynote speech at the Financial Action Task Force conference.

Austin asked why talk of the national debt doesn't seem to make headlines as often as it used to, even as the figure tops $16.1 trillion, according to The New York Times

“Well, the good news is we have a very strong economy, and when you look at the national debt, you really have to look at the national debt relative to (the gross domestic product). I would say we’re comfortable where we are with the national debt, but it’s something we’re concerned about, it continuing to grow," Mnuchin said.

Funding war tends to be one of the most significant reasons why the country would borrow to finance a budget deficit. Mnuchin said that was the case during the Obama administration.

Beyond national debt and the debt ceiling -- a spending budget set by Congress -- he said there's a bigger concern.

"That’s something we want to be careful (of) but the real issue is, we can look at spending, we could look at the debt, but the debt ceiling shouldn’t be held hostage. The credit worthiness of the United States is the most important issue. And, Congress has every right not to approve spending, but where we’ve already approved spending, we obviously have to pay for it. So, the debt ceiling shouldn’t be used as that tool,” Mnuchin said.

He couldn't pinpoint an exact number that the U.S. shouldn't exceed when it comes to national debt.

“No, because it’s really, it’s relative to the size of the economy. So right now, we have approximately a very large $21 trillion economy. If the economy goes from $21 to $30 trillion, I’d feel very differently, so it’s something that we look at relative to GDP," he said.

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