Donald Trump’s newly released tax plan would add a staggering $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade, according to scoring by the Tax Foundation, a well-respected (especially in conservative circles) nonpartisan source. To put that into perspective, that’s more debt than Barack Obama—by far the most profligate president in American history—has managed to rack up so far on his watch (although he’s not done yet). According to the Treasury Department, the national debt has risen an unconscionable $9 trillion under Obama, from $9.2 trillion when he took office to $18.2 trillion today. But all by itself, Trump’s tax plan would generate more debt than 80 months of Obama.
To be clear, that’s after accounting for the increased economic growth that Trump’s plan would spur—and it would spur a lot of growth, raising the gross domestic product by 11 percent (or about $3 trillion) in year-10 compared to what it otherwise would have been, according to the scoring. In “static scoring,” which doesn’t take into account tax cuts’ effect on growth (and hence is of rather limited use), Trump’s plan would reduce revenues by $12 trillion. The economic growth and corresponding tax revenues that his plan would generate would decrease that shortfall by about $2 trillion, to $10.14 trillion, but that’s all.
The hope would be that a good conservative tax plan would cut taxes, spur growth, and over time create enough growth that it would actually generate more tax revenue than would have been generated without the tax cut. Trump’s plan would fall an estimated $10,140,000,000,000 short of that goal.
Actually, the plan’s effects on the debt would be even worse than that. The Tax Foundation writes, “The plan would also result in increased outlays due to higher interest on the debt,” creating a 10-year deficit “somewhat larger” than $10.14 trillion.
In addition to being an incredible budget-buster, Trump’s plan raises one other major concern: It would, Trump claims, take most Americans off the income-tax rolls. It’s bad enough that about 40 percent of Americans currently pay no federal income taxes—and thus don’t help fund national defense, national parks, federal highway spending, the general cost of government, etc. Trump’s plan would turn that large minority into a majority. It’s hard to imagine how having most Americans not have skin in the game is conducive to cultivating a virtuous republican citizenry that prides itself on its self-reliance and doesn’t view government spending as a free lunch.