Hillary Clinton’s proposals for new and expanded government programs would cost at least $1.1 trillion over 10 years as she looks to pump billions of additional dollars into reducing college costs, increasing treatment for drug addiction and helping employers pay for mandatory family and sick leave.
In many cases, Clinton’s presidential campaign does not lay out specifically how she would pay for the new programs and expanded spending, calculated by McClatchy after an examination of her 17 proposals to date.
Political observers say Clinton’s failure to fully explain how she would pay for the spending is unlikely to harm her in the Democratic primary. But it could open her to criticism in the general election.
“The day of reckoning is coming for Clinton to disclose how she will pay for her enormous tab,” says the Republican National Committee. “There is simply no way she will be able to do so without taxing the middle class.”
Certainly I think there is going to be a ‘how are you going to do that’ moment.
Kurt Meyer, Democratic chairman of a trio of rural counties in north-central Iowa, on Clinton’s proposals
Clinton says she wants to impose new taxes on wealthy Americans, not the middle class, while offering a range of tax cuts that would increase take-home pay for middle-class families.
She has proposed limiting tax deductions for the wealthy; requiring a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on those making more than a $1 million a year; ending a practice that enables some wealthy financiers to reduce their income tax bills; closing oil and gas loopholes; and overhauling business taxes.
But most of her tax proposals already have been rejected repeatedly in recent years, in part because Republicans want to engage in a broader corporate tax overhaul and at least some Democrats do not want to anger Wall Street backers.
The Clinton campaign has not announced its estimate of how much she would raise with her tax increases. But the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates they could raise at least $1 trillion.
Research director Loren Adler said his group attempted to calculate her tax increases to determine whether Clinton is being accurate when she says she could pay for her spending proposals. “We think it’s pretty close,” he said.
Clinton has spent far greater time touting her spending plans: $75 billion over 10 years to pay for affordable preschool for every child; at least $60 billion to produce energy from the sun, wind and other renewable sources; and $10 billion to $20 billion in tax credits for companies that adopt profit sharing for their workers.
She would spend $350 billion to make college more affordable; $10 billion to increase drug treatment and recovery programs and provide first responders with drugs needed to stop opioid overdoses from becoming fatal; and $10 billion to help employers pay for seven days of paid sick leave and three months of paid leave for new parents.
Most of Clinton’s more costly plans have been calculated by the campaign over 10 years. Her proposal to spend $275 billion to fix aging roads and bridges, public transit, freight rail, airports and water systems would be for just five years.
She said taxes would pay for two of the costliest proposals – college affordability and infrastructure – though she did not provide many details.
I’m going to tell you what I will do and I will tell you how I will pay for it. And you should ask that of everybody.
Hillary Clinton in Davenport, Iowa, in October
Clinton also has mentioned a handful of mostly smaller proposals, including doubling funding for Head Start, a program that provides training to law enforcement agencies and another that offers mentoring and technical help to aspiring farmers and ranchers.
Her campaign has not released cost estimates for them. McClatchy’s estimates are based on current federal funding.
If elected, Hillary Clinton would have trouble implementing her spending and tax proposals because Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Doug Thornell, managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, a Democratic consulting firm, said candidates of both parties eventually will have to explain how they they would pay for their proposals, though it’s not as high a priority as two or three years ago before the economy improved.
“It’s not as imperative as it was in the past,” he said. “But the major candidates are going to have to lay out how they are going to pay for spending and tax proposals.”
Last week, Congress passed a tax package that extended some of the tax breaks Clinton wanted to make permanent, shaving billions off the price tag of her proposals, Adler said. It also delayed for two years a tax on high-priced health insurance plans enacted as part of the federal health care law. Clinton has joined with members of both parties to call for repealing the so-called Cadillac tax, estimated to cost an additional $80 billion over 10 years.
National debt is approaching $19 trillion & @HillaryClinton wants to add $1 trillion in new spending on top of it.
Tweet by Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush
While a major concern to some, most voters are not concerned with specific policy plans.
“You might as well have a ream of white paper with a cover on it,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. “Most people aren’t paying attention to policy.”
In a blog post, the Clinton campaign accuses Republicans of hypocrisy for not saying how they would pay for their multitrillion-dollar tax-cutting proposals or even whether they would be offset by other tax increases or spending cuts.
“Their own party’s candidates have called for massive spending increases many times greater than what Clinton has proposed,” the campaign wrote. “The difference is, Hillary Clinton’s tax relief is aimed at the middle class and will be fully paid for, while the Republican plans are aimed at the ultra-wealthy, and will add trillions of dollars to the debt.”