Economists think Trump is wrong on budget, trade, Obamacare and immigration

American business economists think that President Donald Trump's effort to restrict immigration is a bad idea.

And they think the current health insurance system should be replaced by one that gives consumers more choice and control, with tax credits to support the cost of insurance.

Those are the findings of a survey of some 285 economists released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics.

The group also thinks Trump's proposal to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement is a step in the wrong direction.

Roughly 7 in 10 of those surveyed said the U.S. should set up import barriers only "occasionally and tactically, when vital industries are threatened by unfair trade practices." Another 27 percent said there should "never" be barriers to entry of imports to the U.S.

When asked broadly, nearly half of the group said the U.S. should ease immigration restrictions to expand the pool of available workers, especially those who are highly skilled. Another 27 percent thinks Trump should leave immigration policy as it is.

With unemployment below 5 percent nationally, there are some 5 million unfilled job openings, many of them requiring hard-to-find, specialized skills. Trump has floated the idea of a merit-based system that would give priority to more highly educated and highly skilled workers.

With regard to specific immigration policies, nearly 60 percent favor expanding the number of visas issued to highly skilled workers through the current H-1B program. Some 15 percent favor expanding access to visas for lowered-skilled workers.

Only 5 percent said the U.S. should spend more to deport unauthorized immigrants. The Trump administration has stepped up arrests and is hiring more immigration and border control agents.

By a slim majority, the group also supports the Affordable Care Act, known widely as Obamacare, and wants to see any replacement increase "consumer choice and control, supported by tax credits." About 1 in 5 thinks the program should continue in its current form.

Some 43 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the health-care law.

The economists are also worried that Trump's tax plan and spending proposals will add to the national debt. The administration has proposed deep tax cuts while promoting increased spending on infrastructure and national defense. Some 78 percent of the economists surveyed believe those policies will widen the federal budget deficit.

"Most panelists would prefer to see the deficit shrink," said NABE President Stuart Mackintosh.

The NABE survey is conducted twice a year. The latest, administered between Jan. 31 and Feb.15, was the first since the new administration took office.