Donald Trump debt plan is probably impossible

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
Darren Hauck | Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump

The U.S. economy would have to grow far beyond anything its seen since World War II to meet Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's goals, according to a Washington Post analysis.

In a wide-ranging interview with the newspaper last week, Trump insisted he could, among other things, eliminate the nation's $18 trillion deficit in the maximum eight years he could serve in office. To do so, he would renegotiate trade and national defense agreements with other nations, cut waste and generate growth that would eliminate the debt, which roughly doubled under President Barack Obama.

However, the Post found that gross domestic product would have to explode by 13 percent to 24 percent annually to meet that goal. Even then, eliminating the debt would need a set of perfect conditions, including an agreement with Congress to freeze national spending with no reduction in tax revenues as a share of the economy.

That level of growth has never occurred in the U.S. economy over that long a period. The closest the U.S. has come was during the World War II years, when growth hit 17.7 percent in 1941, 18.9 percent in 1942 and 17 percent in 1943. However, inflation during much of that time was above 9 percent; it is currently below 2 percent. Growth during the Ronald Reagan presidency topped out at 7.3 percent in 1984 and has never eclipsed 2.5 percent during the Obama years.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The campaign website does not address debt reduction specifically, though Trump promises economic growth and said his proposals to cut taxes will entail "fiscally responsible steps to ensure this plan does not add to our enormous debt and deficit."

Read more about the Trump plan and how it breaks down in the Post's report.