Analysis: Trump, Clinton plans not in line with balancing national debt

Getty Images

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would both face challenges to put the national debt on a sustainable path under their current proposals, a new analysis finds, but Trump would have to go to far more extreme measures to rein in debt if his policies were enacted.

{mosads}Neither of the presumptive presidential nominees have put forth ideas to address the debt, but Trump’s plan would increase it by far more than Clinton’s, the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) said in a report to be released Monday.

“Both candidates, at a time when our debt is already at record levels, would not put forth a plan that would put the debt on a sustainable path,” CRFB President Maya MacGuineas said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “But that said, the plan of Donald Trump would add much, much more the debt than Hillary Clinton.” 

Under current law, debt held by the public is projected to increase to 86 percent of gross domestic product by 2026. The fastest growing part of the federal budget is interest payments.

“Rising debt would ultimately slow wage growth, raise interest rates, leave the country less equipped to deal with a national crisis, and set the stage for abrupt and painful adjustments in the future,” the CRFB said. “We hope that as the election continues the candidates take this threat seriously and announce concrete steps to put it on a more sustainable path.”

The report directly compares the fiscal impact of Trump’s and Clinton’s proposals, building off previous CRFB analyses that examined their proposals separately. The analysis also looks more deeply at the revenue and spending implications of the likely nominees’ policy proposals.

CRFB found that over a decade, Trump’s plans would increase the debt by $11.5 trillion and Clinton’s would raise it by $250 billion.

Clinton’s proposed healthcare policies would increase costs by $150 billion, while Trump’s would raise costs by $50 billion. Clinton’s other spending proposals would also be more costly than Trump’s.

But Clinton’s tax plan would raise $1.25 trillion, while Trump’s tax plan would cost $9.25 trillion. And Clinton’s immigration policies would also produce savings, while Trump’s plan would have costs, the report found.

Additionally, Trump’s proposals would increase net interest on the debt by more than Clinton’s.

If Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, wanted to put debt on a sustainable path after enacting his proposals, he would have to cut spending by 27 to 37 percent, raise tax rates by 17.5 to 20.5 percentage points, accelerate economic growth by 160 to 390 percent, or enact some combination of these options, according to the report.

In order for Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, to put debt on a sustainable path, she would have to cut spending by 6 to 15 percent, increase all tax rates by 3.5 to 8.5 percentage points or increase economic growth by 35 to 125 percent. She could also could take a combination of these actions, the CRFB said.

But Clinton and Trump have made campaign pledges that would make putting the debt on a sustainable path more difficult.

Clinton has promised not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000, but she would need to raise the top tax rate to 64 percent to stabilize the debt if she only raised taxes on high earners.

“Balancing the budget under Clinton’s plan solely by increasing the top rate would likely be impossible, requiring a top rate well above revenue-maximizing levels,” the CRFB said.

It would be impossible for Trump to achieve fiscal sustainability by increasing taxes only on high earners, since he would have to impose a tax rate of above 100 percent to do so, according to the report. Trump has said he wants to cut taxes for the middle class.

Clinton has also called for expanding Social Security rather than cutting it. If she wanted to make the debt more sustainable without reducing Social Security and Medicare spending, she would have to cut spending by 11 to 28 percent, the CRFB said.

Trump has pledged not to cut Medicare and Social Security, but to make the debt levels more sustainable without doing so, all other spending would have to be cut by 50 to 67 percent.

“It is hard to imagine how these levels of reductions would be achievable — particularly if Trump also wants to strengthen the military and increase infrastructure spending as he has suggested,” the CRFB said.

The group also said that the economic growth likely to be generated from Clinton’s and Trump’s plans was likely to be much smaller than the amount of growth needed to stabilize the debt.


The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video