(CNN) — In the words of campaign strategist James Carville, “it’s the economy, stupid.”
So just what would today’s presidential candidates do to fix this country’s $19 trillion debt?
Earlier this week, Donald Trump made a dumbfounding declaration that he would pay off America’s humongous debt in just eight years — a goal most experts say is ridiculous, and even if you could pay it that fast, it would be harmful.
“You’d no longer have a treasury market and you’d probably very greatly weaken the economy,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Trump’s plan may not have hit a bullseye, but it did aim at a crucial issue rarely addressed target on the campaign trail, the debt. “Fixing the debt is hard,” said MacGuineas. “It involves the things politicians really don’t like to talk about. You end up hearing fairy tale promises. It’s like Alice-in-Wonderland budgeting.”
Bernie Sanders’ campaign tells CNN that “Republican trickle-down tax policies are a major reason we have the debt we do.” The wealthy should pay their fair share, and while we’re at it, “we need to limit unnecessary and costly foreign wars.”
Hillary Clinton says she’s proposing new ways to pay for $100 billion in new spending but without adding any new charges. The interest on our current tab costs hundreds of billions each year.
“We’re going to have to raise taxes, cut spending, reform entitlements and grow the economy,” MacGuineas said. “But really what politicians like to talk about is cutting taxes and increasing spending — the opposite of what will fix the debt.”
Senator Ted Cruz says he can save the country $500 billion dollars over a decade in part by cutting “unconstitutional” government agencies. As a senator, he’s been vocal about balancing the budget, but as a crowd-pleasing candidate, he’s proposed billions in new spending.
Donald Trump’s promise to eliminate the national debt is, according to the John Kasich campaign, just another example “showing (Trump’s) not prepared to be president.”
The former congressman says he’s the only contender with a balanced federal budget under his belt, but he’s given no detailed plans for how he’ll repeat the feat.
The specifics have not been forthcoming as the debt continues to grow even as the race narrows.