Trump also wants to spend more on infrastructure. In the wake of the Philadelphia Amtrak crash in May, Trump blasted America’s “horrible infrastructure” and said: “We have to rebuild our infrastructure: our bridges, our roadways, our airports.” Yes, this means more spending, but don’t worry, because “Nobody can do that like me. Believe me.”
Nor should we forget that in the past Trump has supported all sorts of cockamamie big‐government programs, including a Canadian‐style single‐payer health‐care system. One can imagine that such a program just might cost a little bit of money.
Even Trump’s signature issue — building a wall along the border with Mexico — would cost a pile of money. Although projections vary widely, some studies have put the cost as high as $49 billion — and we should note that current attempts to seal parts of the border have run far above estimates. And no matter how good a negotiator Trump thinks he is, Mexico is not going to pay for it.
So where would Trump get the money for all this new spending? Cutting back on immigration will not save nearly enough. (Besides, immigrants, including illegals, are actually a net plus for Social Security and Medicare in the short term.) Perhaps that’s why Trump has been so open to new taxes. In the past he has called not only for new business taxes, but also for a 14.25 percent wealth tax on people with a net worth of more than $10 million.
Unfortunately, Trump’s opponents have not been models of fiscal rectitude. For example, Mike Huckabee, who has been trying to match Trump’s rhetorical flourishes, is also matching his commitment to not cut Social Security or Medicare. Nor should one forget that, as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee had one of the worst spending records of any recent GOP governor. He earned a final overall grade of D on Cato’s fiscal report card, and the Club for Growth says that he increased state spending by 65.3 percent — three times the rate of inflation — and he increased the number of state government workers by 20 percent.
Other Republican candidates have been better on spending, but only somewhat. For example, both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have been open to entitlement reform and have called for cuts in government spending. But when the rubber met the road, both of these senators voted against pairing increases in defense spending with offsetting cuts in domestic programs. Instead, they backed defense increases that would have added almost $40 billion to the deficit. (Although Cruz voted against the amendment to offset defense hikes, it should be noted that he ultimately voted against the budget resolution as a whole.) And Rubio has joined all the GOP candidates except Cruz and Rand Paul in pledging fealty to farm‐price supports.
Jeb Bush has also brought up the need for entitlement reform and promised to be a budget cutter. Recently he pledged to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent within five years, by imposing a freeze on new hiring and replacing only one of every three federal workers who retire. This is a typical Bush proposal: a tiny step in the right direction, from a candidate who often seems temperamentally unwilling to push big ideas. And Bush’s spending record as governor of Florida was decidedly mediocre. As Chris Edwards, Cato’s fiscal analyst, has noted: “Jeb Bush was a prolific tax cutter, but he let spending rise quickly toward the end of his tenure.… Jeb was good on taxes, but apparently not so good on spending.” On Cato’s fiscal report card, he started off earning A’s and B’s, but had fallen to a C by the end of his second term.
Chris Christie has made the need for entitlement reform a centerpiece of his campaign, but spending in New Jersey has gone up during his time in office, increasing 15 percent from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2015. New Jersey also has the fifth‐highest debt and unfunded pension liabilities per capita in the nation. And it has spent $5 billion in economic‐development subsidies since Christie took office. Scott Walker has a decent but not unblemished spending record in Wisconsin (state spending increased by 15 percent from 2012 to 2015), but lately he seems to be taking fewer specific positions on issues than Hillary Clinton. John Kasich was a budget hawk in Congress, but as governor of Ohio he has increased spending for everything from Medicaid expansion to education to job training. Ohio general‐revenue spending has risen 18 percent during Kasich’s tenure. That leaves Rand Paul, who, as would be expected from a libertarianish candidate, has been a staunch opponent of government spending; however, he has seemed determined to talk about anything but spending during this campaign.</p>
In short, the 2016 campaign is still waiting for a budget cutter. That’s not going to be Donald Trump. And, so far, it hasn’t been anyone else either.