"Just about any way you slice it, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton would add to the U.S. debt if either of their tax and spending programs were enacted by Congress next year.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the non-partisan fiscal watchdog group that has been taking the lead in tallying up the costs of the presidential candidates' proposals, has previously estimated that $14 trillion in publicly held debt would rise to $23.9 trillion by 2026 under Clinton's plans for raising taxes and boosting domestic spending, while soaring to $35.2 trillion under Trump's proposals for record tax cuts for wealthy Americans and increased defense spending.
Publicly held debt reflects the amount of money the Treasury routinely borrows to cover shortfalls in revenue to keep the government operating until more tax revenues roll in. Many economists and budget experts consider the publicly held debt as the best yardstick for measuring the rise in red ink associated with new spending and tax policies.
More broadly, there's also the gross national debt – the monumental, all-inclusive reckoning of the government's borrowing from outsiders and internal borrowing between government agencies and accounts that typically gets more attention from politicians, the news media and irate taxpayers. That more commonly cited debt figure – currently $19 trillion and rising – includes not only what the Treasury owes its creditors and lenders but also what it owes itself through transactions involving various trust funds including Social Security and Medicare.
The gross national debt currently is projected to rise from $19 trillion today to $29.1 trillion by 2026, or a 50 percent increase, according to government estimates. Trump frequently cites that figure in making the case that government spending is out of control and that President Obama's economic and budget policies have been "a disaster."
Yet under Trump's tax cut and spending plan, gross debt would rise to $39.5 trillion by 2026, or an astounding doubling of the current $19 trillion figure, according to a new study by the CRFB. By contrast, Clinton's plans would raise the gross debt to $29.6 trillion during that same period – a roughly 50 percent hike."