Second Debate Fell Short on Budget Solutions

Issue Brief
Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Despite the professed interest of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in discussing important issues, the second presidential debate on Sunday was another missed opportunity to seriously address the enormous fiscal challenges that will face the next president and Congress.

The federal budget is on an unsustainable course, with rising debt and chronic gaps between current spending commitments and federal revenue. The Medicare and Social Security trustees have warned that these programs, faced with an aging population and rising health costs, must be repaired soon.

Once again, however, voters did not hear credible, comprehensive proposals to meet these challenges. Nor did last week’s vice-presidential debate feature such proposals.

One questioner on Sunday night asked the presidential candidates what specific changes in tax policy they would pursue, but the responses were generally vague or focused on questionable promises that taxes would be cut dramatically (Trump) or that any additional tax burdens would be limited to people with very high incomes (Clinton).

“Tax reform is an important issue but it needs to be connected to the broader fiscal outlook,” says Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition. “Ultimately, taxes and spending cannot be considered in separate silos.”

“So it is too bad that we still haven’t had a real discussion by these candidates on how their spending and tax policies add up,” Bixby added. “We have had accusations, but no explanations.”  

External links:Open Letter to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Concord)Debate Information (Commission on Presidential Debates)