Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

In 2016 Race, Phantom Policy Proposals Disguise Trillions Added to National Debt

Created: 26 February, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
2 min read

Analyses of policy proposals from Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders estimate that their proposals would increase the national debt by about $8 to $30 trillion between 2016 and 2026. According to information the Washington Post and the New York Times recently published, this is how much each candidate would add to the debt:

  • Rubio - $8.2 trillion
  • Cruz - $10.2 trillion
  • Trump - $11.2 - $15 trillion
  • Sanders - $19 - $30 trillion

The Republican Reality Disconnect

That information, reported by Washington Post commentator Fareed Zakaria, comes despite data showing that about half of Republican voters in New Hampshire felt betrayed, at least in part, by the failure of their own party and politicians to get a grip on the perceived debt problem. Candidates, instead, tend to rely on talking points about the need to end out-of-control spending and crippling debt.

Zakaria characterizes Republican candidates' proposals like this:

“So why do Republicans do it? Because they know what the base wants to hear, are aware that none of it is remotely plausible, and so have decided that policy proposals are no longer, well, actual policy proposals. Instead, they serve as signals — emotional impulses meant to energize supporters.”

The Democratic Reality Disconnect

Zakaria asserts that Democrats since Bill Clinton have largely avoided such phantom policy proposals in campaigns. Instead, they tend to place more reliance on at least plausibly real, although still optimistic data and underlying assumptions to buttress their policy arguments.

For example, Hillary Clinton’s proposals were considered to be at least plausibly realistic in their projected impacts on debt.

Despite his arguments to the contrary, Sanders is singled out as basing his proposals on unreasonable fantasy and false economic belief. According to four respected democratic economists who previously advised democratic presidents, there is “no credible economic research” that supports the economic assumptions and predictions that Sanders bases his proposals on.

After reviewing Sanders' base assumption data, one commentator called his proposals a crossing into Neverland.

Zakaria’s opinion piece astutely concludes with this comment on these emotion-generating fantasies in the current campaign:

“But this is nitpicking. He is painting with a broader brush, being an authentic man who speaks his mind, willing to present bold ideas geared to capture the imagination. Never mind that establishment elites criticize them as unworkable or divisive or radical. . . . . Am I speaking about Bernie Sanders — or Donald Trump?”

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