Third Presidential Debate Failed to Provide Public with Credible Plans for Dealing with the National Debt

Press Release
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

WASHINGTON -- The Concord Coalition expressed disappointment Wednesday night that neither of the candidates in the final presidential debate provided voters with credible and specific proposals for putting the federal debt on a sustainable path.

“Donald Trump’s suggestion this evening that economic growth alone can solve the problem is not realistic and can hardly be called a plan,” said Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “And while Hillary Clinton’s proposals were more specific, the higher taxes that she suggested would be used for new spending rather than to curb the projected growth in federal debt under current law.”

He added: “Washington is already on course to add trillions of dollars to the federal debt in the next decade, outstripping projected economic growth. So even budget plans that promise not to make the situation worse are inadequate. We must do more than tread water if we want to foster future growth, invest in national priorities and prevent our children from inheriting excessive government debt.”

After years of declining as the economy recovered from recession, the federal budget deficit is now rising again. Two key drivers of its projected growth in the years ahead are rising health care costs and an aging population; they force the government to spend more each year on entitlement programs -- notably Social Security and Medicare -- just to provide the same level of benefits for more people.

In addition, the tax system is riddled with questionable provisions that favor some individuals and companies while draining substantial amounts of federal revenue. The government’s interest payments, meanwhile, are expected to rise rapidly in the coming decade as the debt increases and today’s low interest rates rise closer to historical levels.

These problems call for structural reforms in the federal budget, something political leaders and candidates are often reluctant to acknowledge -- particularly on the campaign trail, where it is easier to fall back on simplistic talking points about just taxing the rich, anticipating spectacular growth rates, and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.

“Neither Clinton nor Trump is truly preparing the public for hard choices and compromises, which will make it all the more difficult for whoever wins the election to solve the problems,” Bixby says. “Instead of building a mandate for comprehensive reforms, they are building in unrealistic expectations among their hard-core followers. This only risks further public cynicism.”

Media contact: Steve Winn (703) 254-7828 [email protected]



The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to fiscal responsibility. Since 1992, Concord has worked to educate the public about the causes and consequences of the federal deficit and debt, and to develop realistic solutions for sustainable budgets. For more fiscal news and analysis, visit and follow us on Twitter: @ConcordC