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Trump and the Future U.S. Budget

Friday July 22nd, 2016   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:47am PDT   •  

If you’re anything like me, you’re doing everything you can to keep from having to watch any part of the major party political conventions this month.

That’s because these kinds of events are far too often long on political hyperbole and short on substance. Too many promises get made that have absolutely no chance of being kept, and in far too many cases, these are promises that the politicians who make them have absolutely no intention of ever keeping.

That makes analyzing the various tax and spending proposals of the various parties’ presidential candidates something of a fool’s game, because nobody really knows how seriously committed they are to achieving them. We don’t know which proposals are serious and which ones have been proposed to buy the votes of some special interest group that is going to be jilted later, nor do we know which have been advanced as negotiating positions and what the candidates are really willing to settle for if they do become the U.S. President.

So with all that in mind, and with the Republican national party convention going on this week, we’re going to look at how different the U.S. government’s spending and tax collections would be compared to current law over a 10-year period beginning with the 2017 fiscal year under a Donald Trump presidential administration.


The chart above is based on some yeoman analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which has been doing an amazing job in keeping track of the spending and tax proposals of the major party presidential candidates for the 2016 election.

So far, coming into the Republican National Convention, we find that proposed spending over the next 10 years would be slightly increased, from 22.1% to 22.5% of GDP, but that federal tax revenues would plunge from 18.1% to 13.6% of GDP, where candidate Trump has proposed some very generous tax cuts.

If Trump’s fiscal plans were to go forward as currently outlined, the U.S. government’s budget deficits will grow from a 4.0% gap to a 9.0% gap, which would cause the size of the national debt to grow at a rate that is considerably faster than it did even during the Obama administration’s record-setting early years.

Now the question is whether we should believe that Trump’s fiscal policies will go forward as initially proposed. The answer to that question is no, they will not. The Wall Street Journal reports:

An updated version of Donald Trump’s tax cut will be about one-third the size of the previous $10 trillion version, two campaign advisers said on Wednesday.

Those pending changes mean the chart we just presented is already obsolete, so we’ll need to revisit the projections again once the details of candidate Trump’s new fiscal proposals are known. Until then, consider the chart above as “Take 1” of what will prove to be a series of ever evolving proposals.

Next week, when the Democratic National Committee gets under way, we’ll check to see how the current state of where “Take 1” of candidate Hillary Clinton’s fiscal proposals stand.

But if you want to know the truth, neither candidate’s budget proposals really matter because we’re starting from the scenario where no matter what, both the federal government’s annual budget deficits and its total public debt outstanding are set to grow each and every year, as far into the future as anyone dares to look.

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July 2016