|You expected me to raise taxes? What am I, freakin' crazy?|
Ronald Reagan made tax cuts the centerpiece of his economic program (later, he had to back track, but who's counting?). George H.W. Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge. He was a one-term president. Bill Clinton raised taxes and delivered eight years of growth. George W. Bush cut taxes on the rich and yet couldn't avoid a near-catastrophic economic meltdown. Barack Obama raised taxes on the very wealthy and has overseen an unprecedented 77 straight months of job growth, adding 15 million jobs.
So it's no surprise that Hillary Clinton doesn't mind raising taxes on the rich or that Donald Trump wants to lower them severely. But Donald Trump had no choice but to follow GOP economic orthodoxy:
But if “populist” Donald Trump wins, taxes on the wealthy will go way down; in particular, Mr. Trump is calling for elimination of the inheritance tax, which these days hits only a tiny number of really yuuuge estates (a married couple doesn’t pay any tax unless its estate is worth more than $10.9 million).
So if you’re wealthy, or you’re someone who has built a career by reliably serving the interests of the wealthy, the choice is clear — as long as you don’t care too much about stuff like shunning racism, preserving democracy and freedom of religion, or for that matter avoiding nuclear war, Mr. Trump is your guy.
And that’s pretty much how the Republican establishment still sees it. Getting rid of the estate tax is “the linchpin of the conservative movement,” one major donor told Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur. Gotta get those priorities straight.
You'd expect Paul Krugman to feel this way about Donald Trump's economic plan. Okay, so how about Bush speechwriter and conservative pundit Michael Gerson?Should we be shocked at the willingness of leading Republicans to make this bargain? Well, we should be shocked — we should never, ever start accepting this sort of thing as normal politics. But we shouldn’t be surprised, because it’s just an extension of the devil’s bargain the economic right has been making for decades, going all the way back to Nixon’s “Southern strategy.”
The Trump campaign clearly intended the Detroit speech to appease economic conservatives by sounding slightly less like Bernie Sanders. So he supported an end to the death tax (affecting about three-tenths of 1 percent of the public), embraced the House Republican proposal for a simplified tax-rate structure, proposed lowering the corporate tax rate; and promised a moratorium on government regulations. These ideas range from good to irrelevant. But they hardly constitute a new economic agenda. They are more like the least popular leftovers of the Reagan Revolution.Ooh, snap. More:
First, the speech offered little serious or creative policy that might appeal to Trump’s most important political audience: working-class voters who feel shafted by economic change. There was almost nothing — just a single sentence promising a future proposal — about helping workers obtain the skills to succeed in a modern economy. Which means that Trump somehow gave a speech on economics that avoided the most urgent economic challenge of our time. There was nothing about increasing wage subsidies that would help less-skilled workers lead better lives — an idea endorsed by President Obama and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). And Trump’s child-care proposal came in the form of a tax deduction, which would mainly benefit upper-income households (the campaign has since scrambled to consider major changes to this plan).Gerson, who continues of late to be the most reasonable of conservative pundits -- and who rejected Trump's horrifying candidacy early and often -- ends his critique of the Trump plan by pointing out that it will blow up the deficit, raise prices on consumer goods by engaging in a destructive trade war, and will not only do nothing for but also do harm to the working class whites who are at the core of his constituency.
Oh, and lead to the further degradation of the Republican Party. Here Gerson and Krugman agree. And, not surprisingly, so do a growing number of the Republican elite, especially those whose livelihoods don't depend on serving the wealthy.
Again, Trump has trumped Trump. He had a chance to change the game with a "serious" economic plan. He whiffed.