It’s no secret that Donald Trump likes his projects to be big.
But it came as a surprise that a candidate who spent so much time railing against the federal debt would unveil a plan, as Trump did over the summer, that would add so many trillions of dollars to that very debt.
The scale of Trump’s budgetary ambitions was truly unprecedented. At one point, the Committee for a Responsible Budget estimated that Donald Trump’s budget would add $11.5 trillion to the national debt, more than double his closest rival in the Republican primary. To put that number into perspective, the Bush tax cuts—the largest in history up to that point—cost $2.8 trillion over ten years.
Finding enough money to balance the budget with these sorts of tax cuts would be nearly impossible. At an average cost of $1.5 trillion per year, even completely eliminating the Defense Department Department wouldn’t have paid for Trump’s plan:
So when Donald Trump brought on more mainstream Republican economic advisors like Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow, they worked to trim the cost of his plan, mostly by scaling back the magnitude of proposed tax cuts. Instead of enacting tax brackets of 10, 20, and 25 (down from 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, and 39.6 currently) Trump would bring down tax rates to 12, 25, and 33. This revision, according to an analysis of the plan released Thursday by the Committee for a Responsible Budget, would trim $5.3 trillion from the cost of his tax cut, leaving the government still $4.3 trillion in the hole. Unfortunately for budget hawks, Trump has issued new promises that will reverse some of those savings, including:
- A $550 billion childcare tax deduction plan
- A $50 billion paid maternity leave plan
- $450 billion in new new defense spending
These are partially offset by pledges to reduce spending on programs by 1% every year, a pledge that the Committee for a Responsible Budget would save $750 billion over ten years. According to the CFRB, Trump has also pledged to cut “spending on programs that Congress has not formally authorized (otherwise known as unauthorized appropriations, which total over $300 billion in 2016) by 5 percent.” On top of those cuts, he has pledged to shrink the federal workforce through attrition, which the CFRB estimates would mean replacing federal employees at a rate of 1 for every 3 workers that retire. All of these cuts, according to the estimate, would trim $250 billion from the budget over ten years.
So what’s the upshot? Trump’s revisions means that he’ll add “just” $5.3 trillion to the federal debt if he gets his way, according to a new report from the Committee From Responsible Government—the first major scoring of Trump’s tax plan since he made the changes.
That’s still far bigger than Hillary Clinton’s addition of $200 billion, but perhaps that’s just how Mr. Trump likes it.