Donald Trump comes from big money.
For millions of Americans, it’s the concept of Trump and his big money – earned and generated through a cornucopia of successful business ventures and deals – marrying government that will pave us into a new era of American greatness. While some candidates are spending considerable time on the stump, rallying against the influence of big money, Trump has unabashedly used his fortunes to his advantage. And he’s done so by convincing throngs of potential voters that they can, in fact, be just like him.
People are buying in, too. Though Trump has held many positions in the past that are diametrically opposed to those he apparently holds now, his ideas are striking a chord with voters – and it has Trump primed for a real shot at the White House in November.
But there’s still a fly in the ointment when it comes to Trump’s plans: Money isn’t going to solve everything. Trump’s been able to handle many issues in the past by wielding his riches as a weapon, but if he were president, it simply wouldn’t work. Republicans make this case all the time; one example would be when deciding what to do about public education. Throwing more money at the Department of Education, they say, won’t solve the inherent problems with it.
Trump, however, is adamant that we can return the country to his idea of greatness by using the same tactics he’s used in the business world. Namely, with his (or in this case, the country’s) wallet. Trump himself is worth billions. But there are simply some things that neither he, nor the country, can afford.
Here are a few examples.
1. The wall
The first, and perhaps most notorious campaign promise Donald Trump has made is his idea to build a wall along the southern border, in an effort to keep illegal immigrants out. Not only does he want to build it, but he wants Mexico to pay for it – an idea that didn’t go over well with Mexican officials. Even so, Trump’s remained steadfast with his “great wall” concept. But as John Oliver thoroughly explained on Last Week Tonight, the wall isn’t going to happen; as it would cost way, way more than Trump has anticipated. Conservatively speaking, it would cost $25 billion. Trump initially put the cost at a paltry $8 billion.
And not only that, but it wouldn’t actually solve the problem. You can see the segment here:
2. Perpetual war
America evidently hasn’t learned its lesson when it comes to perpetual war in the Middle East, as the War on Terror has now dragged on into its 14th year, at a cost estimated at $4.4 trillion through 2014 – and even up to $5 trillion by some estimates. The war played a large part in building America’s massive deficits and national debt through the early 2000s, as its costs were coupled with the Bush tax cuts and Medicare expansion. Needless to say, America was and has been burning cash, rapidly, ever since.
Trump’s plan to beef up military spending (which already ranks very high worldwide, even as a percentage of GDP), and expand U.S. military engagement does come across as a sound financial plan, particularly when you take our next item into account. Wars are expensive. And perpetual war against a constantly shape-shifting, amorphous enemy? It’s completely unsustainable.
3. Paying off the debt
Of all Trump’s campaign promises, this is the most pie-in-the-sky, Hail Mary, long shot of them all. Trump has wagered that he could, by the end of his presidency, pay off the national debt – all $19 trillion and change of it. He’s proposed doing so by spurring economic activity and selling off government assets, which would still leave him far short as the government only claims to own $3.2 trillion in assets. And as far as spurring economic activity? The current U.S. GDP is around $17 trillion annually, meaning that every dollar the country produced for an entire year could go toward the national debt, and we still wouldn’t be able to pay it off.
Experts have slammed Trump for proposing he could pay off the national debt, and even as a very wealthy businessman, Trump should know better than to say this was even a plausible plan, let alone possible. He may be rich, but the national debt? That’s one thing Trump, or anyone else, certainly can’t afford.
4. Saving Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security
The greatest magic trick of all time would be to find a way to save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cutting benefits. These programs, with growth and costs forecasted out over coming decades, will eventually bankrupt the government, or at least lead to government spending of 42% of GDP annually. A fix is desperately needed, and almost everyone agrees that it will require some sort of compromise in the form of service cuts, or raising taxes. But Trump has said he can figure out a way to get it done, without cutting benefits. That leaves us with raising taxes – and we know how Republicans feel about raising those.
Entitlement spending will need to be dealt with at some point, and Trump’s promise is to take care of the problem without effectively doing anything that people won’t like. Again – from a man who’s been all about big money nearly his whole life, Trump should know that this promise is just above and beyond the power of the purse.
5. Bringing jobs back
Finally, Trump has assured Americans – especially those who have felt the full brunt of the economy’s shift over the past generation or so – that he can and will get their jobs back. Particularly, he has said that he will get jobs that have been outsourced or shifted to cheaper labor markets like China and Mexico back to American shores. He’s talked about how America is getting “killed on trade,” noting trade deficits with trading partners, and what he says are serious blunders in trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP.
But the problem is that Trump can’t and won’t bring those jobs back. They’ll never come back. They’ll disappear entirely before they come back to America, replaced by automation or new industries. The fact is that America’s economy has fundamentally and forever changed, and no amount of campaign promises, or proposed “deal-making” with foreign nations is going to bring jobs back. It’s one more area where the power of money has limited effect, and Trump would be better off planning and seeding new technologies and industries than convincing wide swaths of Middle America that he can bring their jobs back from overseas.