Count the promises’ costs

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Hillary Clinton speak during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday, April 14, 2016 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A White House candidate issued this timely assertion last week: “I do think when you make proposals and you’re running for president, you should be held accountable for whether or not the numbers add up and whether or not the plans are actually going to work.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered that fair challenge during last Thursday night’s Democratic debate with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Brooklyn.

And regardless of the outcomes of both today’s Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in New York, the candidates should “be held accountable for whether the numbers add up” in their campaign pitches.

Certainly that’s a much more important issue than GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s continued whining about party delegate-picking rules that should not be catching him by such indignant surprise at this late date in the process.

Just as certainly, the numbers relating to the national debt, now more than a record $19 trillion and still rising at a risky rate, keep adding up as a growing peril to America’s fiscal future.

However, that doesn’t stop Democrats from generally promising ever-higher spending and Republicans from generally promising ever-lower taxes.

Yes, Mrs. Clinton is proposing tax hikes of more than $1 trillion on “the rich” over the next decade.

But given the sluggish nature of the ongoing economic recovery, it’s hard to see how we can tax our way back to prosperity. After all, higher taxes have always tended to stifle investments — and job growth.

It’s also troubling to see that Mrs. Clinton — and Sen. Sanders — seem intent on continuing to shortchange military needs, even as our armed forces continue to face rising challenges around the world.

As novelist/commentator Mark Helprin, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a guest column in Monday’s Wall Street Journal:

“The U.S. 2015 base budget defense appropriation (excluding overseas contingency spending) was just less than 3 percent, as opposed to 5.7 percent during the peacetime years during the period 1940-2000.”

And taxing much more in order to spend much more, as Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Sanders propose, on federal subsidies for college tuition, family leave, health care and other domestic programs won’t give our military the resources it needs to carry out its missions.

Like their GOP counterparts, Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Sanders have given lip service, at best, to the hard choices that will be required to put Social Security and Medicare on a sound bottom-line footing.

As nonpartisan federal budget analysts have long warned, if long-overdue reforms aren’t enacted to meet those massive entitlement obligations, they are bound for fiscal train wrecks.

Still, Mrs. Clinton is right to demand that presidential candidates “be held accountable” for their spending proposals.

And, yes, they should be held accountable for their taxing proposals, too.

Fiscal responsibility should be the guiding standard in each instance.