Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump recently estimated that he could pay off the nation’s $19 trillion debt within eight years.
“This claim demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of the debt and its impact on the economy,” says Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition. “It is also inconsistent with the tax and spending proposals Trump has espoused on the campaign trail, which are far more likely to grow the debt rather than eliminate it.”
In a new blog post, Bixby says the debt’s importance is not its size in dollar terms but its size relative to the economy (GDP).
“While the debt is indeed very high by historic standards and is projected to grow at an unsustainable rate over the coming decades, there is no need to eliminate it within eight years,” he writes. “Attempting to do so, however, would require spending cuts or tax increases that risk substantial harm to the economy.”
A better goal, he says, would be to stabilize the debt as a share of GDP and then begin to reduce it over time, as the nation did after World War II.
Bixby also points out that “no plausible set of policy options exists for eliminating the debt.” Just addressing projected deficits in the years ahead would be difficult, particularly if Trump followed through on two of his other promises: Enact a tax cut that would cost an estimated $8 trillion over eight years, and avoid cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Trump Can Pay Off Debt in 8 Years: False (Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget)
Trump’s Latest Wild Claim: He’ll Fix the Debt in 8 Years (CNN)
Trumpanomics: Fantasies Over Facts (Washington Post)