Hillary Clinton wants to appeal both to the left and to supporters of her husband’s administration. Her policies are thus unclear and their costs undefined. However, she very clearly differs from her husband on trade, taxation, fiscal management, health care and the environment, and her overall fiscal gap appears the widest of the Democrats.
New York’s junior senator proposes to limit health-care premiums to a fixed percentage of family income while providing coverage similar to that enjoyed by members of Congress. This seems likely to be at least as expensive as other Democrat health-care proposals, which have been budgeted by the campaigns at $120 billion (Rs4.72 trillion) a year and might well cost much more.
Clinton’s foreign policy would be more expensive than those heretofore espoused by challengers Barack Obama or John Edwards; she has refused to pledge withdrawal from Iraq before 2013, rather than withdrawing as her rivals propose. Since Iraq costs $170 billion per annum, her room for expansive social programmes is correspondingly restricted.
What is clear is that Clinton is much more protectionist than her husband. She opposes the trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement and has said she regards the North American Free Trade Agreement—one of the free trade hallmarks of her husband’s two terms in the Oval Office—as a mistake.
Clinton plans two new, large tax credit schemes, one for retirement savings and the other for education costs. Like the rest of the Democratic field, she would repeal the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 per annum. She has stated the need to “revisit” social security contributions on upper incomes, but has yet to produce a concrete plan.
In addition, Clinton plans a $50 billion green energy fund and a $20 billion green vehicle bond programme, while adopting “cap-and-trade” emission permits, of which 100% would be auctioned. Like other Democrats, she calls for an 80% cut in emissions by 2050, a goal that is both irrelevant to a Presidency ending in 2017 and almost certainly unattainable.
It is difficult to calculate the precise impact of a Clinton victory on the US fiscal balance, but it seems likely she will have to break either her promises or the budget to get there.