Trump Victory Could Threaten U.S. Debt Rating

Fitch Ratings warns that Trump's proposed tax cuts alone would not generate enough economic growth to offset the loss in revenue.
Matthew HellerNovember 9, 2016
Trump Victory Could Threaten U.S. Debt Rating

Donald Trump’s presidential election victory doesn’t pose an immediate threat to the United States’ pristine debt rating but the impact of his fiscal policies would be negative over the medium term, according to Fitch Ratings.

The credit ratings agency said the country’s AAA rating is “underpinned by unparalleled financing flexibility and a large, rich and diverse economy” and that “There are uncertainties about the detail of Trump’s [fiscal] program, the degree to which he will seek to carry it out and his capacity to implement it.”

But Trump’s flagship tax cut proposal, Fitch said in a news release, “would be negative for U.S. sovereign creditworthiness over the medium term, as tax cuts alone cannot generate enough growth to make up for the loss in revenue.”

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Fitch cast doubt on “trickle-down” economic theory, warning that “It is uncertain whether corporates would boost investment in response to a tax cut as investment growth has been slow despite strong profitability and a recent boom in corporate borrowing.”

Tax cuts would increase household disposable income but according to Fitch, such an increase “would also likely spur inflation or external imbalances over the medium term, as the U.S. output gap between actual and potential economic output has virtually closed.”

In addition, the ratio of government debt to GDP would rise “dramatically” were the tax cuts to be implemented in full, Fitch said.

The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center has estimated the net loss of revenue from the planned cuts at $6.2 trillion, one-third of 2016 GDP, while the Congressional Budget Office has forecast federal debt to GDP would rise by 9 percentage points of GDP by 2025.

As far as Trump’s other proposals, Fitch warned that a major shift toward trade protectionism through a withdrawal from NAFTA and the imposition of tariffs on China “would have significant adverse implications for US investment and growth and push up prices, particularly in the event of foreign counter measures or ‘currency wars.’”