My former colleagues on the New York Daily News editorial board sat down with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on April 1 for an illuminating interview. The more I read the transcript, the more it became clear that the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination doesn’t know much beyond his standard stump speech about breaking up the banks and how he had the good judgment to vote against the Iraq War in 2002.
Nine moments in the Sanders conversation left me agape. From his own plans for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks to how he would handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to dealing with the Islamic State, the man giving homegirl Hillary Clinton a run for her money seemed surprisingly out of his depth. The bold in the text is mine for emphasis.Jim Tankersley and Jeff Guo write at The Washington Post:
Trump says he can pay off a $19 trillion national debt within eight years as president. He says he can do this while cutting taxes. He has not detailed any substantial cuts he would make to federal spending, so what he is really making is a growth argument — that he could supercharge the economy, creating sufficient budget surpluses to retire the debt. "The power is trade," he told the Post in an interview last week. "Our deals are so bad."Also at The Post, Glenn Kessler writes:
We ran some calculations to determine just how powerful that effect would need to be in order to make Trump's math pencil out. How fast, we wondered, would the U.S. GDP need to grow to produce enough tax revenue to pay down the debt?
The answer is likely somewhere between 13 and 24 percent — every year. He would need to at least double the size of the U.S. economy in eight years, and possibly to quadruple it.
If only it were that easy. As we have noted repeatedly, eliminating a trade deficit does not mean the money ends up in government coffers. (Morever, Trump is wrong to say the trade deficit with China is $505 billion; it’s $366 billion, according to the Census Bureau. The trade deficit with all countries is $531 billion.)
According to a January projection by the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will run an additional $6.8 trillion in additional deficits between 2017 and 2024. So the task is not $19 trillion, but nearly $26 trillion over eight years.
Why are deficits expected to climb? That’s because the baby-boom generation is retiring, running up the cost of mandatory spending programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. Alone among Republican hopefuls, Trump has pledged not to touch entitlement spending. So unless he wants to start breaking some campaign promises, one presumes he would not seek to change the laws governing most mandatory spending.
That leaves discretionary spending, which Congress votes on year after year and funds the basic functions of government, such as defense, homeland security, highways, and so forth. In the eight years of a putative two-term Trump presidency, the CBO projects a total of $10 trillion in discretionary spending. So even if Trump eliminated every government function and shut down every Cabinet agency, he’d still be $16 trillion short.