Clinton’s debate statement on the national debt misleading


At the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night, moderator Chris Wallace said both candidates are ignoring concerns about the rising national debt.

“The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says Secretary Clinton, under your plan, debt would rise to 86 percent of GDP over the next 10 years,” Wallace said. “Mr. Trump, under your plan, they say it would rise to 105 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. Question is — why are both of you ignoring this problem?”

Trump said the basis of the question was wrong because he will “create tremendous jobs.”

Clinton, meanwhile, said she pays for everything she proposes, primarily by increasing taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

“What I have put forward does not add a penny to the debt,” Clinton said.

Is that right?

Yes and no. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan policy group, says Clinton’s plans would increase the debt by a relatively small amount, $200 billion over a decade “above current law levels.” The Clinton campaign says a new business tax plan would generate an additional $275 billion to cancel out that debt increase.

However the numbers shake out, the debt would still grow by $9 trillion over 10 years because of interest payments related to the U.S. debt.

“Interest on the debt will become the fastest growing part of federal spending. In 2017, the next president will inherit a government projected to spend over $300 billion on interest payments that year alone, an amount that grows to more than $800 billion by 2025 — more than the current combined federal spending on the Defense Department, education, transportation, and medical research,” wrote Bob Bixby and Maya MacGuineas for the Brookings Institution.

So, as Wallace said, without further changes, debt would rise to above 86 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product under Clinton’s plan.

For the record, Wallace was also correct that the debt would grow faster if Trump is elected, according to independent researchers.

“We are encouraged that Clinton continues to largely pay for her new spending and that Trump has made substantial improvements to his plan, including a less costly tax plan and new spending cuts,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget wrote.

“Unfortunately, neither candidate has presented a proposal to address our growing national debt and put it on a more sustainable path, nor have they offered a proposal for shoring up the Social Security, Medicare, or Highway trust funds. As it currently stands, Donald Trump’s proposals would still substantially worsen the debt.”

Our ruling

Clinton said, “What I have put forward does not add a penny to the debt.”

An independent analysis found Clinton’s proposals would add a relatively small amount to the debt, $200 billion over a decade. The Clinton campaign says a new business tax plan will address that, though the proposal hasn’t been independently analyzed.

Regardless, Clinton’s explanation leaves out the fact that debt would still rise by about $9 trillion over 10 years because of current policies. Clinton’s proposals don’t stem that increase.

Clinton’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details.

We rate Clinton’s statement Half True.

For the full fact-check, see www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/oct/20/hillary-clinton/what-hillary-clintons-plans-mean-us-debt/


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