Analysis of the New Policy Proposals in the February 11th Democratic Presidential Debate: Impact on Spending
During the February 11th debate, the candidates repeated several proposals that they had offered during previous debates and also featured new policies that could have an impact on spending.
Secretary Hillary Clinton added seven items to her agenda, five of which would increase annual outlays by $15.345 billion, and two whose costs are indeterminate due to lack of specificity. Senator Bernie Sanders made one new policy statement that could potentially impact spending but the cost is indeterminate. Details regarding what the candidates said, in their own words, and the potential impact on spending are available below, sorted by issue area.
Previous Net Change in Spending per Year: $135.135 Billion
Cost per Year of New Proposals in the February 11th Debate: $15.345 Billion
New Net Change in Spending per Year: $150.48 Billion
Economy, Transportation, & Infrastructure:
Coal Communities Revitalization: "And that's why I've come forward with, for example, a plan to revitalize coal country, the coalfield communities that have been so hard hit by the changing economy, by the reduction in the use of coal."
Cost per Year: $3 billion ($30 billion over ten years)
Notes: In November 2015, Clinton announced a $30 billion plan to "revitalize coal communities." NTUF assumes the outlays would occur over 10 years.
Re-entry Assistance for Ex-Offenders: "So, when we talk about criminal justice reform, and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities. … So, we're going to enforce the law, we're going to change policing practices, we're going to change incarceration practices, but we're also going to emphasize education, jobs, and housing."
Cost per Year: Indeterminate
Notes: Clinton has not clarified whether she would prioritize the allocation of exiting funding, or would seek spending increases for education-, jobs-, and housing-related re-entry programs.
Homeland Security & Law Enforcement:
Legal Representation for Unaccompanied Minors in Immigration Hearings: "I think now what I've called for is counsel for every [refugee] child so that no child has to face any kind of process without someone who speaks and advocates for that child so that the right decision hopefully can be made."
Cost per Year: $11 million ($55 million over five years)
Notes: Individuals facing immigration hearings are required to hire their own lawyers, or seek pro bono representation.
According to data from Syracuse University's Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), in 2014 only 32 percent of unaccompanied minor immigrants were represented with legal counsel in pending cases. For the cases that were decided, 41 percent had representation.
According to a report released last October by the Migration Policy Institute, there were 55,153 pending immigration cases involving unaccompanied minor immigrants.
In 2014, the Office of Refugee Resettlement issued $9 million in grants to provide representation for 2,600 unaccompanied minors, or, $3,462 per minor.
According to the TRAC report, an average of 5,526 cases were decided from 2012 through 2014. Assuming this average continues, and that 59 percent of the cases would receive federally-funded legal counsel under Clinton's proposal, the total annual cost would be at least $11 million. The costs could run higher to the extent that those who currently receive pro bono counsel or otherwise hire their own representation make use of federally-funded representation instead.
This estimate only pertains to cases involving unaccompanied minors. TRAC reports that as of January 2015 there were 26,342 cases involving women with children. Providing legal counsel for these cases could further increase the annual cost to taxpayers.
National Defense & Foreign Affairs:
Refugees - Financial Support for Europe: "So we do as the United States have to support our friends, our allies in Europe. We have to stand with them. We have to provide financial support to them [to assist with the refugee crisis]. We have to provide the NATO support to back up the mission that is going on. "
Cost per Year: Indeterminate
Notes: Clinton has not specified what level of "financial support" she would provide.
Caregiver Credit: "[First, rather than expand benefits for everyone ...] I want to take care of women. When the Social Security program was started in the 1930s, not very many women worked. And women have been disadvantaged ever since. They do not get any credit for their care-taking responsibilities."
Cost per Year: $5.4 billion ($54.025 billion over ten years)
Notes: A Caregiver Credit would provide a new Social Security benefit for individuals who leave the workforce to care for an ailing family member or to raise children. A 2009 analysis by the Urban Institute estimated that establishing a caregiver credit would increase Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) outlays by 0.5 percent over the first ten years.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that outlays under OASDI will total $10.81 trillion from FY 2017-2026. A 0.5 percent increase would boost outlays by $54.03 billion over ten years, or $5.4 billion on average per year.
A more recent analysis of a comprehensive caregiver credit is unavailable. In 2015, the Office of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration estimated that a proposal (listed in the report as B7.3) to provide a credit to parents with a child under six for earnings up to five years would increase the long-range actuarial balance for OASDI by 0.23 percent.
Low-income Earners Benefit Adjustment: "First, rather than expand benefits for everyone, I do want to take care of low-income seniors who worked at low-wage jobs."
Cost per Year: $5.742 billion ($28.71 billion over five years)
Notes: In 2015, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report with long-term cost-analyses for various policy options regarding Social Security. Option 33 in the report would introduce a new poverty-related minimum benefit for workers whose earnings are relatively low over a long period. Under current law, eligible beneficiaries receive a minimum benefit of $830 per month. Unlike the standard benefit, the amount is indexed annually based on prices rather than wages. Because earnings generally increase faster than prices, fewer people are eligible each year.
Under the new option reviewed by CBO, the minimum benefit would be increased to $1,220. As noted, CBO only provided a long-term cost projection: "Under this option, Social Security’s total outlays, measured as share of GDP, would increase by 0.2 percentage points in 2040, or by 3 percent from currently scheduled outlays." A 5 or 10 year estimate is unavailable.
In 2009, CBO reviewed a related option to reform the annual adjustment for the minimum benefit so that it would be based on prices rather than wages:
This option would increase the standard benefit for workers who had more than 20 years of work to their credit but whose average indexed monthly earnings were below those of workers who earned twice the minimum wage for 35 years of full-time work. The effect would be greater for beneficiaries who had more years of work and for those who had lower average indexed monthly earnings. For example, the benefit would be increased by 40 percent for workers who worked full time for 30 years but never earned more than the minimum wage.
CBO determined that this option would increase outlays by $26 billion over the first five years ($28.71 billion in current dollars) and by $147 billion over 10 years ($162.33 billion in current dollars).
Surviving Spouses: "[First, rather than expand benefits for everyone ...] And the people who are often the most hard-hit are widows, because when their spouse dies, they can lose up to one-half of their Social Security monthly payment."
Cost per Year: $1.189 billion ($11.886 billion over ten years)
Notes: In 2015, the Office of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration analyzed a proposal (listed in the report as D4) to establish an alternative benefit for a surviving spouse: "For the surviving spouse, the alternative benefit would equal 75 percent of the sum of the survivor's own worker benefit and the deceased worker's [primary insurance amount] (including any actuarial reductions or delayed retirement credits)." This proposal would increase the long-term actuarial OASDI balance by 0.11 percent.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that outlays under OASDI will total $10.81 trillion from FY 2017-2026. A 0.11 percent increase would boost outlays by $11.886 billion over ten years, or $1.189 billion on average per year.
Costs for this proposal could run much higher if the benefits are not targeted to low- to moderate-income households. In 2007, CBO analyzed a related, less-targeted benefit increase for surviving spouses that would have increased outlays by $119 billion ($136 billion in current dollars) over five years.
Previous Net Change in Spending per Year: $1.75 Trillion
Cost per Year of New Proposals in the February 11th Debate: Indeterminate
Economy, Transportation, & Infrastructure:
Re-entry Assistance for Ex-Offenders: "People are being released from jail without the education, without the job training, without the resources that they need to get their lives together, then they end up -- we're shocked that they end up back in jail again. So, we have a lot of work to do."
Cost per Year: Indeterminate
Notes: Sanders' infrastructure and "energy system transformation" programs would each target funding for job training. It is unclear whether Sanders would seek additional new funding specifically targeted to assist ex-offenders as they are released from jail.