Ohio Gov. John Kasich had a bit of a Howard Beale moment at Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, excoriating his competitors for making unrealistic promises about everything from taxes to entitlement cuts to immigration. But especially taxes. “These plans would put us trillions in debt,” he railed. “You just don’t make promises like this. Why don’t we just put a chicken in every pot, coming up with these fantasy tax schemes.”
The spiel may or may not have gone over well with viewers, but the man has a point. The conservative Tax Foundation has so far released scores for six Republican tax plans (though not Kasich’s). The most responsible, you could argue, belongs to Rand Paul, and would add $1.7 trillion to the deficit over 10 years before factoring in the effects of economic growth. The most delusional? Donald Trump’s, which would add to $11.9 trillion over a decade. That said, Ted Cruz just debuted a plan for a 10 percent flat tax that would probably leave the budget looking like a burnt husk. His Wall Street Journal op-ed notes that the Tax Foundation thinks it would boost growth but makes no mention of what the organization projects his plan would do to the deficit.
Speaking of growth, the Tax Foundation thinks that each of these tax plans would help spur a significant amount of it (as you can see on the graphic above), which would ameliorate their effect on the deficit—and in Paul’s case, actually lead to more revenue overall for the government. A lot of mainstream economists don’t exactly take the Tax Foundation’s growth models seriously, but it goes to show that even with some generous assumptions about what they’d do for the economy, these tax plans still would plunge the country pretty deeply into debt—unless, of course, they’re accompanied by gargantuan budget cuts.
Which, of course, a Republican president might be able to pass.