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May 24, 2016

Clinton can pay for most of her presidential promises, analysis finds

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates her plans will cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years

A "fiscal fact check" of Hillary Clinton's presidential promises has found that her proposals would cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years, but that she could pay for most of it with her proposed tax increases.

Overall, her plans would add $200 billion to the national debt by 2026, according to a report from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The group is a nonprofit think-tank that advocates for reducing the national debt.

In comparison, the CRFB's previous reports estimated that Bernie Sanders' proposals would add $19 trillion to the national debt and that Donald Trump's would add $12.1 trillion.

The Clinton campaign has promised that it will release a plan for corporate tax reform that would drum up $275 billion in revenue, thus covering the budget shortfall. However, it didn't provide enough detail for the CRFB to include that plan in its calculations.

"Her plan is roughly budget neutral, minus the fact that she doesn't have a detailed business tax reform plan yet," said Marc Goldwein, the CRFB's senior vice president.

However, he was disappointed that Clinton hasn't said more about the need to reduce the national debt, which he fears is contributing to a "permanent economic slowdown."

"All Secretary Clinton does is keep us on our current unsustainable path; so much more needs to be done," said Goldwein.

Related: Bernie Sanders' proposals could add less to the national debt than Donald Trump's

To tamp down on the debt, said Goldwein, Clinton would need to propose even revenue increases and spending cuts, plus Social Security reform.

"Our large and growing debt is slowing economic growth...Too few leaders in either party are really talking about this elephant in the room," he said.

Overall, if Clinton were elected and got to pass everything she wanted, debt as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) would climb from 74 percent now to 86 percent in 2026. That number could climb higher, to 90 percent, if Clinton fulfills her campaign promise of reversing the "sequester" budget cuts.

To stabilize the debt at 74 percent of GDP, the economy would have to grow at a steady clip of 3.1 percent per year. However, it's only projected to grow at 2.1 percent per year, and an analysis from the Tax Foundation estimated that Clinton's tax increases would make GDP shrink by 1 percent over a decade.

Clinton's promises include a raft of investments in education, infrastructure and the economy. The biggest items on her list are debt-free college (cost: $350 billion over 10 years), paid family leave (also $350 billion), expanding the Affordable Care Act ($300 billion) and funding big infrastructure projects ($300 billion).

She's promised that she won't raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year, but everyone else is fair game. For example, she'd put a minimum tax on millionaires and limit the value of tax breaks for anyone above the 28 percent tax rate bracket.

"Huge credit to Secretary Clinton for actually having offsets for each of her provisions," said Goldwein.

Clinton also has floated a plan to reduce prescription drug prices and to encourage states to offer a "public option" in health insurance exchanges, which could save $250 billion in 10 years.

The CRFB based its report both on analyses it did itself and on a variety of other sources, like the Urban Institute, the Center for American Progress and the Congressional Budget Office. In particular, it based its revenue estimates on a previous analysis from the Tax Policy Center.